02/13/2009 12:00AM

Vegas regains five lost signals


Five blacked-out racing signals were restored to more than 80 Nevada casinos on Friday as a result of an agreement the casinos reached with a simulcast-marketing partnership owned by Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment Corp., officials for the casinos and the partnership said.

The agreement, reached late on Thursday, ended a blackout of Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park, Golden Gate Fields, Oaklawn Park, and Laurel Park. The signals were blocked from the casinos as of Jan. 26 when the two sides could not agree on a new simulcasting contract. The previous contract expired at the end of 2008, but was extended through Jan. 25.

John Avello, who was involved in the negotiations on behalf of the Nevada properties as the race and sports director for Wynn Las Vegas, said the agreement would be in effect for two years. He would not provide specifics, but said the casinos were paying a higher rate for the signals than in the past, and that "non-monetary issues" were also involved in the negotiations.

Scott Daruty, the chief executive of TrackNet, also would not provide any specifics.

"There was compromise on both sides, and we ultimately came up with something we both could agree with," Daruty said. "If you ask them, I'm sure they would say they are paying too much," Daruty said. "If you asked us, we would say they aren't paying enough."

The simulcast-marketing partnership, TrackNet, was seeking a higher rate from the casinos, which were believed to be paying some of the lowest rates in the country under the previous contract. That contract also allowed the casinos to pass on some simulcasting expenses to the racing industry, a concession that racing officials said was unique.

TrackNet controls the signals to all of the tracks owned by Magna and Churchill, as well as several other racetracks. The company has typically been asking simulcasting sites to take the entire slate of 17 tracks that the company controls, though the tracks are often divided into tiers that require simulcasting sites to pay higher rates on wagers on top-class tracks such as Santa Anita and Gulfstream, and lower rates on tracks such as Thistledown or Remington.

Avello said casinos were hurt by the blackout, but that the ultimate victim was the casino customer who liked to play horses during the day and casino games at night.