01/29/2009 1:00AM

Vegas booking race bets without signal

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Race books in Las Vegas casinos on Thursday were booking bets on the races from five racetracks that have been blacked out because of an ongoing dispute over the rates the casinos pay for simulcast signals, according to a race book executive.

John Avello, the race and sports book director for Wynn Las Vegas, said he began taking booked bets on the racetracks on Wednesday, despite being unable to broadcast the races. Avello said that other race books in Las Vegas had also begun booking bets, which is legal in Nevada.

"We're busy," Avello said. "I'm kind of astonished that people are betting what they can't see."

The five blacked-out signals, which are all controlled by the simulcast-marketing company TrackNet, include some of the most popular winter tracks, including Santa Anita, Gulfstream, Golden Gate, Oaklawn, and Laurel. TrackNet is co-owned by Magna Entertainment Corp. and Churchill Downs Inc., which have been pressing casinos to pay higher rates for simulcast signals.

Scott Daruty, the chief executive of TrackNet, said that he was aware that "at least several" race books had begun booking bets. "That's their prerogative," Daruty said. The racing industry does not receive any compensation from booked bets.