12/14/2001 12:00AM

TOC urges one-account bets


The Thoroughbred Owners of California has called on telephone-wagering companies to reach an agreement that would allow racing fans to use a single account to bet on California races year-round.

The concern was one of several that the TOC outlined in an open letter it released Friday, including the "broadest possible distribution of California's live signal" and "fair and equitable treatment of all segments of the industry."

Telephone and internet wagering is expected to be formally legalized in the state as of Jan. 24. TOC officials said the letter was released to call attention to the organization's concerns as companies line up to grab their share of the market in an increasingly contentious battle.

"We want people to know where we are coming from," John Van de Kamp, president of the TOC, said Friday. "We don't want to see this become fragmented."

As it stands now, racing fans will have to open several accounts to wager on California races year-round because two separate companies control the rights for tracks in the state.

One company, Television Games Network, has the rights to Hollywood Park, Oak Tree at Santa Anita, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, and Fairplex. Magna Entertainment Corp. has the broadcast rights to the tracks it owns in California - Santa Anita, Golden Gate Fields, and Bay Meadows Race Course.

The two companies have been unable to reach a cross-carriage agreement, and negotiations broke down bitterly at the beginning of December.

TVG officials said Friday that their service, available over satellite and several cable systems, already complies with most of the TOC's concerns. But TVG president Mark Wilson acknowledged that the TOC's "one-account" priority would be difficult to achieve. "It's possible that the fans will have two or three choices, and frankly, that may not be bad," Wilson said. "Competition is a good thing."