Youbet Set for Illinois Wagering

Youbet Set for Illinois Wagering
Photo: has reached an exclusive agreement with four Illinois racetracks to offer advance deposit wagering access to residents of the state, a deal that is being called the first of its kind because of its revenue sharing program.

Fairmount Park, Hawthorne Race Course, and harness tracks Balmoral Park and Maywood Park recently signed the agreement with Youbet and Illinois horsemen groups in an arrangement that will split revenue three ways between the primary entities.

“It’s the first of its kind,” said William Schmitt of Integrated Corporate Relations, an investor relations firm working with Youbet. “It’s a long-term partnership between the ADW, the tracks, and the horsemen -- all working on the same page to further the industry. Hopefully, this will be the first of many.” Schmitt said the deal runs four years with two option years.

The “one-third” pricing model has become a hot topic in recent weeks, championed by the new Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group, a coalition of 11 horsemen’s organizations. A proposed deal with Youbet based on the same revenue sharing program was in the works in Florida in regards to the Gulfstream Park signal, but an agreement was never reached.

It isn’t exactly clear when the new venture will launch. Schmitt said Youbet is awaiting legislation to be passed in Illinois that would clear the way for advance deposit wagering. But Lanny Brooks, the executive director of the Illinois Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said the new ADW project could be up and running by March 1.

Brooks claims that Youbet and the state’s regulatory agency, the Illinois Racing Board, determined that nothing in state law prohibits advance deposit wagering.

“So they thought since it doesn’t condemn it, why not go forward with it,” Brooks said. “They are assuming that if and when the ADW legislation is passed, it will basically follow the language of the contracts we have reached.”

Illinois is one of several “grey” states without clear-cut laws either permitting or prohibiting ADWs. But Brooks claims Youbet handled about $27 million in wagers from Illinois residents last year alone.

Brooks said details need to be worked out on the revenue split among horsemen. The Illinois HPBA primarily represents horsemen at Fairmount Park, while the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association represents Hawthorne. Balmoral and Maywood horsemen are represented by the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association. Brooks said he planned to meet with officials from the two other horsemen’s groups Jan. 31.

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