With the looming expiration of a fan-friendly experiment to share racetracks among account wagering companies in California, representatives continue to meet in hopes of an agreement in time for the start of the Del Mar summer meet July 16.
As of the afternoon of July 11, no agreement had been announced. Advance deposit wagering provider TVG, which holds the exclusive contract to accept in-home bets to the upcoming Del Mar, Fairplex Park, and Oak Tree at Santa Anita meets, had not agreed to relinquish its hold. As it now stands, customers of TVG and its partner, Youbet.com, would be able to wager on Del Mar, but those of two other ADW licensees in the state, XpressBet and Twinspires.com, would not.
Richard Shapiro, chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, along with vice chairman John Harris met with representatives of the ADW companies, horsemen, and racing officials July 8 at Santa Anita. While progress was made, there was no change in status. Another meeting between some of the parties and the Thoroughbred Owners of California was held July 10 with apparently no resolution.
An 8 1/2-month trial period expires with the end of the Hollywood Park meet July 13. When the ADW companies first agreed to drop their exclusive arrangements with racetracks in the state and exchange wagering content prior to last fall's Hollywood Park meet, it seemed like a logical place to end the experiment. TVG owns exclusive rights to wagering on the remainder of the Southern California season, and there was not comparable content left within the state to constitute a fair swap.
But due to the initial success with the new arrangement and its popularity with the state's fans -- who no longer needed multiple accounts to wager on California races -- industry representatives were hoping to convince TVG and the other ADW companies to resume the experiment for a full year.
Drew Couto, president of the TOC, said discussions have centered on a "largely financial adjustment" that would "allow everybody to continue the experiment through the end of the Oak Tree meeting (Oct. 26)." He declined to elaborate on the terms.
John Hindman, general counsel for TVG who is involved in the discussions, did not return phone calls. Neither did Craig Fravel, executive vice president of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
During the June 27 CHRB meeting, Hindman expressed disappointment with the results of the trial for TVG, but said the company was willing to continue it "based on a fair exchange of content at fair prices (compensation)." Fravel told Daily Racing Form recently that he didn't "want to discuss the business negotiations in the newspapers."
However, on the "Fan Forum" of Del Mar's Web site, there was quite a bit of confusion earlier the week of July 6 on whether account wagering would be available for the popular summer meet.
Shapiro emphasized that if parties are unable to come to an agreement, ADW at Del Mar, Fairplex, and Oak Tree would be conducted through TVG and Youbet.com as it has for the past seven years. He said the CHRB cannot force the ADW companies to come to a consensus, because the exclusive contracts are private business deals negotiated directly with racetrack associations.
"From the CHRB perspective, my goal is to take care of the fans first," he said.
Shapiro noted that results so far show that all segments of the industry have benefited by the shared wagering format. "We've got to look at the big picture," he said.
Shapiro said that ADW is the only handle on the upswing in California racing.
Couto said the ADW companies are on notice that if they don't agree to share content, they will be required to negotiate with the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group, a national coalition representing 18 horsemen's associations, on interstate rates for the importation of California's signal elsewhere. Otherwise, he said there's not much incentive on TVG's part to drop its exclusivity unless the other ADW companies agree to go out of state for additional content.
"There's more than one way to skin a cat," Couto said.
The TOC, recognized as the majority representative of owners in the state, has control of the signal to out-of-state simulcast locations and ADW providers under provisions of the federal Interstate Horseracing Act.
TOC board chairperson Marsha Naify said the organization voted in June to authorize the THG, which has taken a hard stand in its negotiations with ADW companies on behalf of other states, to act as "broker" for California's signal.
"Our feeling all along is that horsemen don't receive enough of the revenue through purses from the ADW companies," Naify said.