Not near a racetrack or OTB? Want to bet the Preakness? Then you'll need to open an account with XpressBet, the wagering platform of Pimlico Race Course owner Magna Entertainment Corp.
MEC is holding to its policy of restricting account-wagering access of its tracks to XpressBet for this year's Preakness Stakes (gr. I), said Charlie Ruma, president of AmerciaTab. Ruma negotiated with MEC officials for the past month on a deal to allow AmericaTab customers to wager on the Preakness, but no agreement was reached.
"Unfortunately there was not," Ruma said Tuesday. "We've been trying to get approval to take (Pimlico's signal) either for one day or two and have been unable to do so. They really want exclusivity on this. We've tried everything. There would be no price I wouldn't pay, within reason."
MEC chief executive officer Jim McAlpine did not return calls seeking comment. To be fair, Ruma pointed out TV Games Network, with has exclusive deals with dozens of tracks across the country, did not allow XpressBet to accept Kentucky Derby (gr. I) wagers.
"I don't want to point the finger at Magna, it was my hope TVG would have released the signal to every outlet," Ruma said "I don't care where it is in the world. You need to get the distribution out for the biggest race in the world."
Not only fans are effected by exclusivity. Remi Bellocq, executive director of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said although its not entirely clear, it appears the battle between TVG and MEC is also having a negative effect on purses.
"Magna has every right (to restrict access), Xpressbet is theircompany and we can't tell them how to run their company, but we're concerned how it's affecting purses," Bellocq said. "Some of our affiliates have been affected. Markets like Philly Park and other areas that have been good account holders for years."
Bellocq said the issue of distribution is "not a black and white issue, there's some gray area" involved. He pointed out the interests of track owners also need to be protected.
"You need people to buy and invest in racetracks," Bellocq said. "Magna puts a lot of money into the tracks they buy and keep them going. We need to appreciate that."
Though it's impossible to know how MEC's policy will affect handle for the Preakness, total wagering was down on the company's two winter tracks that ran after the policy went into effect: Santa Anita Park and Gulfstream Park. A group of more than 600 people are also formally boycotting all MEC tracks.