Advance Deposit Wagering Growing in California

The percentage of California handle attributed to advance deposit wagering (ADW) is slowly growing, with 5.7% of in-state handle now traced to bets made through one of three account wagering providers, the California Horse Racing Board was told during its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday in Del Mar. Total ADW handle through July 6 is $66.3 million.

TVG has the highest number of California account holders and largest handle to date, with nearly 14,000 Californians opening accounts and the TVG system handling $33.8 million in wagers in 2002. Approximately 60% of that total has been wagered on California races, with 40% on races from out of state.

Magna Entertainment-owned Xpressbet has just over 11,000 account holders, 9,437 of whom are California residents. Xpressbet.com officials said the company has handled $24 million. Of that total, 47% was wagered on Santa Anita, with 9% at Bay Meadows, 8% at Golden Gate Fields, and 36% on out of state tracks. Magna, which owns Santa Anita, Bay Meadows, and Golden Gate, cannot take bets on Hollywood Park and Del Mar because those tracks have exclusive contracts with TVG. TVG is not able to take wagers on the Magna-owned tracks.

Ed Hannah of Magna said the company's Horse Racing Television (HRTV) network has launched but is only available on the paid satellite service the company co-owns with Roberts Communication and Greenwood Racing, owners of Philadelphia Park. The service costs $100 per month and requires equipment purchases of approximately $450. Hannah said HRTV is produced at Santa Anita, airs seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m (PDT), and shows about 6-8 races per hour. He said the company is seeking broader distribution but that the process has been hampered by problems in the cable industry. He also said Magna is attempting to secure air time for the Santa Anita meeting next winter. Santa Anita had aired on the Fox Sports West and Fox Sports West 2 cable network until Fox entered into an agreement with TVG to air two hours each racing day.

Youbet.com officials said they now have 9,000 account holders in California and have handled $14.1 million in wagers since being approved to operate in the state.

Tony Allevato, executive producer for TVG, said the telecasts on Fox Sports West 2 have performed well in the ratings, averaging a 0.8 ratings point. Allevato said one point represents 54,000 households in California. A recent weekend telecast received a 1.8 rating and was the highest rated cable sports program that day. The same afternoon, a racing telecast on the CBS network had a lower 1.2 rating despite CBS being in nearly twice as many households as Fox Sports West 2.

Allevato also said TVG is now showing video streaming of races on its website as well as on the popular foxsports.com Web site. The service will be available only for TVG account holders. Allevato added that TVG is about to announce deals involving Fox Sports New York, Fox Sports Arizona, and Fox Rocky Mountain.

Youbet.com had struck a deal with NTRA Productions and Tulsa-based Winnercom to video stream races on espn.com. However, because of TVG's exclusive agreement with many tracks, the deal was blocked. Youbet officials said they hope they can work with TVG to reach an agreement.

In other news, it was announced at the CHRB meeting that the Oregon Racing Commission has waived the 0.25% fee charged to the account wagering businesses operating in California. The hub for the betting services is located in Oregon.

Also, the CHRB approved a 40% increase in funding for the health and welfare program for California jockeys, allocating $884,235 to help cover increasing costs for health, dental, and vision benefits for jockeys with at least 100 mounts per year, with at least 50 in California. The money comes from uncashed pari-mutuel tickets on horses that were scratched. California and Delaware are the only states that provide a funding mechanism to subsidize health insurance for jockeys.

Recently retired Chris McCarron, who spoke on the health insurance subject on behalf of the Jockeys' Guild, also praised the board's recent decision to regulate the use of shock wave therapy on horses. McCarron urged the board to go a step further and ban the equipment from racetracks altogether. Shock wave therapy involves use of a machine to transmit energy waves to soft tissue and bones. While the therapy has therapeutic benefits, the treatment also can have a numbing effect on horses, making it a safety issue for both horses and jockeys. The new CHRB policy prohibits the use of shock waver therapy within seven days of a race. Del Mar management advised veterinarians and trainers that all shock wave therapy treatment must be conducted at the backstretch equine clinic.

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