04/23/2009 12:00AM

XpressBet and Twinspires to offer Churchill signal


The signal from Churchill Downs will be available during the spring meet opening Saturday on at least two national account-wagering platforms, Twinspires.com and XpressBet, according to an official of the marketing company that sells the track's signal.

Although the Churchill signal was blacked out from all national account-wagering companies for the entire spring meet last year, the signal has been restored on Twinspires.com and XpressBet for this spring meet because of agreements reached last year between the track and the organization representing its horsemen. Last year, horsemen refused to grant their consent unless Churchill promised them a larger share of the revenue, a situation that led to Churchill filing a lawsuit against several horsemen's associations alleging violations of antitrust law. Last month, a Kentucky judge ruled that the lawsuit could proceed.

The status of Churchill's signal on other national account-wagering companies had not been determined by late afternoon on Thursday, though Scott Daruty, the president of the simulcast-marketing company TrackNet, said that negotiations were ongoing with Youbet.com and Philadelphia Park's Phonebet. TrackNet is owned by Churchill Downs and Magna Entertainment Corp., the owner of XpressBet.

Television Games Network, the largest account-wagering operator in the country, is not expected to carry Churchill's races during the spring meet. Since TrackNet was formed two years ago - when Churchill's contracts with TVG expired - TVG, Churchill, and Magna have not reached an agreement that would allow TVG to carry the signals from any of the companies' racetracks.

The blackout last year played a role in an 11 percent decline in all-sources wagering on Churchill's races during the spring meet last year. Only three races were not affected by the blackout - the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks, and the Woodford Reserve Classic - because of provisions in existing contracts that exempt those races from the horsemen's veto.

Blackouts on account-wagering sites have become increasingly common in racing over the past two years as horsemen and racetracks squabble over the rights to revenue raised from account wagering.