Account Wagering Front and Center at Round Table

Account Wagering Front and Center at Round Table
Photo: Associated Press
CDI president Robert L. Evans.

Account wagering, one of the more pressing issues facing the pari-mutuel industry, will be front and center Aug. 19 during The Jockey Club Round Table Conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The economics of account wagering, already the subject of a spirited workshop during the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association summer convention in late July, will join equine medication and welfare issues on the Round Table agenda. Sharing the business philosophies of their respective organizations will be Robert Evans, president and chief executive officer of Churchill Downs Inc.; Joe Santanna, president and chairman of the board of the National HBPA; and David Nathanson, senior vice president and general manager of TVG.

Access to signals, revenue from handle, and mystery surrounding various entities’ take from account wagering have fueled controversy in the industry. It has taken on added meaning because account wagering (also called advance deposit wagering) is the leading outlet for handle growth in North America.

During the National HBPA workshop, horsemen implored account wagering providers to work together for the benefit of the industry. Horseplayers associated with the Web site PaceAdvantage.com have since prepared a petition they say will be delivered to The Jockey Club headquarters before the Round Table.

The Web thread has more than 400 signatures, according to PaceAdvantage.com, which posted an Aug. 16 copy of the petition. A letter addressed to Jockey Club president Alan Marzelli reads in part:

“As The Jockey Club prepares for its 55th annual Round Table Conference, which features a segment on advance deposit wagering and the economics of racing, we thought it would be useful to present to you some opinions from an often neglected but vital economic side of the industry, that being the handicappers and players themselves.

“We feel you deserve to hear directly from the people who, each and every day, pump millions of dollars into the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing via the ‘virtual’ mutuel windows. Recently, those virtual windows have become harder to find for certain tracks, forcing players to either abandon their favorite venues altogether, or register accounts at multiple ADWs. This has led to much frustration and even anger among bettors, who understandably feel their concerns need to be heard at the highest levels of the sport.

“In addition, the fractured ADW landscape has led to significant amounts of handle going back to illegal bookmakers, (from) which the tracks don’t receive a dime. In an era where on-track attendance declines nationwide, and online wagering continues its rapid growth, now is the perfect time for these voices to finally be heard.”

A Jockey Club official contacted Aug. 15 said the organization declined to comment on the petition, although officials will be available after the Round Table.

The National HBPA last month said it hoped to arrange a meeting among representatives of the leading ADW companies in August. The horsemen’s group has been particularly vocal about its displeasure with the current account wagering structure and has met privately with members of other horsemen’s associations.

“We have been passive for too long,” Bob Reeves, a member of the Ohio HBPA board of directors and organizer of the convention workshop, said of the account wagering issue. “I know these people haven’t been talking (among themselves).”

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