'Mini-Satellites' Coming to California Bars, Card Clubs

In a move to expose horse racing to more people, California satellite wagering can get up to 45 new outlets, including sports bars and card clubs, under a new law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The California Horse Racing Board staff has begun drafting specific guidelines for the "mini-satellites" in hopes of getting them up and running before the 2008 Kentucky Derby.

Under Assembly Bill 241 authored by Inglewood Democrat Curren Price,  these outlets must be in areas restricted to adults 21 or older and will be evenly distributed -- 15 in each zone. Mini-satellites must be 20 miles or more from existing tracks or satellite locations unless granted consent.

The expansion could more than double the state's current 33 satellite outlets, mostly offered at county or other fair locations.

There's plenty of room for growth, said lobbyist Ron Blonien, who worked on the bill. "Look at the desert. The only satellite is at Indio. There are lots of country clubs and sports bars  in towns like Palm Springs and Palm Desert. There are lots of places all over the state.

"This is a great new opportunity for us to take the horse racing product to a whole new audience," he said. "Racing is entertainment. It's a social activity. When you hit a big winner, you want to share the excitement. Who do you high-five when you hit a trifecta at home when you're betting online? The cat?"

Advance deposit wagering has hurt attendance at the state's current satellites, he said. ADW now accounts for about 15% of all wagering, much of that formerly bet in satellites.

The mini-satellites eventually could bring in $500,000 to $700,000  a day, Blonien said. "And 90% of that is newfound money with new fans."

Subject to their individual compacts, Indian casinos could add mini-satellites to sports lounges, he said. 

The CHRB got immediately to work on regulations for the new mini-satellites. The first license applications should be before the board before April 1.

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