07/15/2008 11:00PM

TVG ends account wager deal


DEL MAR, Calif. - An experiment that allowed the four account wagering providers in California to offer betting on all of the state's racetracks ended Wednesday when TVG declined to relinquish its exclusive rights to the Del Mar meeting, according to several racing officials.

"The so-called experiment won't be continuing," Del Mar executive vice president Craig Fravel said Wednesday morning.

As a result, only TVG and Youbet were taking bets on Del Mar's opening-day program Wednesday. Customers of Xpressbet and Twinspires across the country were not able to bet Del Mar, according to Scott Daruty, chief executive of TrackNet, which negotiates simulcast contracts for those services.

"My understanding is that TVG has refused to relinquish exclusive right even though the track and the horsemen have requested that," Daruty said.

John Hindman, legal counsel for TVG, said TVG wanted an exchange of content with TrackNet's account wagering services, but they were unable to reach an agreement.

"Del Mar is available to customers the same way it's been available for nine years," he said. "Del Mar has been successful during that time. We attempted to continue the experiment. There was a not a fair exchange of content."

The experiment began at the Hollywood Park fall meeting last November and included the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting and the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting that ended Sunday.

The widespread access was widely praised by track and racing officials for helping to increase handle from account wagering providers.

Ron Charles, the chief operating officer of Magna Entertainment, the parent company of Santa Anita and Xpressbet, described the situation as "horrible" for bettors. Charles said negotiations were continuing Wednesday morning.

Negotiations over rights for account wagering is a sensitive subject for track and racing officials because it is the only growing segment of the parimutuel market, making up for losses ontrack and through simulcast wagering. Meetings had been held in recent weeks between track and racing officials and members of the California Horse Racing Board in an attempt to continue the experiment.

According to Drew Couto, executive director of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, negotiations stalled on the terms of distribution of content between rival television networks TVG and HRTV, which is owned by Magna and promotes Xpressbet on its network.

"We pushed to get this experiment done," Couto said.

Fravel said the current Del Mar meeting is the last in which TVG has exclusive wagering rights and that the agreement will not be continued in its current form.

"At this time next year, this scenario will be behind this," Fravel said. "We have the opportunity to bring some sanity to the process."