04/04/2008 12:00AM

Some account-bet growth slows


Total handle through the largest domestic account-wagering operations in the United States - which maintain their betting hubs in Oregon - rose 5.9 percent in 2007 compared with 2006, the lowest annual growth for the companies since the Oregon Racing Commission began tracking total handle in 2000.

Total wagering in 2007 through the companies - Television Games Network, Xpressbet.com, Youbet.com, and twinspires.com and its predecessors - was $1.355 billion compared with $1.280 billion in 2006, according to the commission. Although the total was a record for the four companies taken together, handle had been increasing by double-digit percentages each year since 2000, and the recent slowdown suggests that the market may be cooling off.

Handle increased through TVG, Xpressbet.com, and Youbet.com compared with 2006. Handle through twinspires.com, however, and the three account-wagering companies that were folded into the operation earlier this year, declined 8.2 percent, from $234.7 million in 2006 to $215.3 million. Twinspires was launched earlier this year by Churchill Downs Inc., and brisbet.com, tsnbet.com, and winticket.com were merged with the operation late in the year after Churchill purchased them.

An offshore rebate shop owned by Youbet.com, International Racing Group, also maintained a hub in Oregon before Youbet closed the shop in February. IRG's handle in 2007 was $231.7 compared with $299.2 million in 2006, but wagering at the shop dropped precipitously in the fourth quarter of 2007 when Youbet.com acknowledged that federal agents were investigating some of the shop's customers.