01/05/2009 12:00AM

Vegas dispute coming to head

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A dispute over the distribution of revenue between Nevada casinos and tracks owned by Churchill Downs and Magna Entertainment threatens to disrupt betting in casino race books later this week.

The current contract ends on Wednesday, and a meeting between racing and casino executives is scheduled for Wednesday in Las Vegas in an effort to reach a resolution. The absence of an agreement could lead to a blackout as early as Thursday, said Santa Anita's president, Ron Charles

Track officials are seeking a higher percentage of bets to be dedicated to racetracks and horsemen.

"We are going to sit down and see if we can find a compromise in regards to some increase in the distribution back to the tracks," Charles said of Wednesday's meeting.

Charles acknowledged that a blackout of some racetrack signals into Nevada would punish bettors. Currently, the Magna-owned Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, and Santa Anita simulcast into Nevada casinos, as does the Churchill-owned Fair Grounds.

"With Nevada suffering through a rough period and horse racing kind of following suit," Charles said, "I'm not sure this is the best time to be alienating our fans."- Steve Andersen