Racetrack Cooperative Says Tracks Want to Join
by Tom LaMarra
Date Posted: 11/18/2003 7:34:10 AM
Last Updated: 11/19/2003 2:12:01 PM

The Southern Racing Cooperative, currently in a dispute with the Churchill Downs Simulcast Network over fees charged for signals, said Nov. 17 it has been approached by 10 racetracks that want to join the organization.

The cooperative, in a prepared statement, said the 10 tracks would bring total membership to more than 20 tracks that account for about $1 billion in handle each year.

"A lot of these new members are small tracks," Southern Racing Cooperative spokesman Bobby Geiger said. "But they are important to American racing and still need to be heard and respected. We're pleased to see the recent surge of interest."

The tracks will be named shortly, Geiger said. Current members of the cooperative are Oaklawn Park, Fair Grounds, Prairie Meadows, Sam Houston Race Park, Retama Park, Delta Downs, Sunland Park, Sun Ray Park, and Beulah Park.

The racetrack cooperative, similar to the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative, was said to be close to cutting a deal with CDSN on a rate for the Hollywood Park signal the week of Nov. 10, but all CDSN signals were pulled from cooperative-member tracks when negotiations apparently stalled. The cooperative accused CDSN of "retaliation" for the contract dispute involving the Hollywood signal.

The situation remained unresolved as of Nov. 17.

The Mid-Atlantic Cooperative, a group of tracks in a six-state region, has been involved in high-profile disputes with Keeneland and the New York Racing Association over signal rates and pari-mutuel takeout rates. Cooperatives allow the tracks to band together and develop clout in the marketplace.

The Mid-Atlantic Cooperative is particularly strong because almost 25% of national handle each year is generated in the Mid-Atlantic region. Meadowlands in New Jersey, for instance, is believed to be the largest single wagering outlet in the country in terms of total annual handle.

In the last few years, horsemen's groups also have been vocal about the fees charged for signals. The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Thoroughbred Owners of California are just two organizations currently studying the issue.

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