Wagering Protests Planned by Disgruntled Bettors

A group of bettors frustrated with the fractured structure of advance deposit wagering are planning protests against racing entities they believe are responsible for the industry sector’s ills.

The idea for the protests, which could include wagering boycotts of certain racetracks, grew out of a petition circulating on the Web site forum PaceAdvantage.com. The petition, which voiced angst that content-wrangling between such powers as TrackNet Media Group and TVG is hurting bettors, was signed by more than 400 people and read at the The Jockey Club Round Table Conference Aug. 19 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Chicago-area resident Richard Young, who originated the petition under his forum name of “betovernetcapper,” primarily blames TrackNet, the Churchill Downs Inc./Magna Entertainment Corp. consortium formed in March, for causing chaos in the ADW scene. He hopes to launch a Web site called boycotttracknet.com within in the next few days to help organize like-minded fans.

“I haven’t been happy with TrackNet since their inception,” said Young, who has been an active bettor for 20 years. “When they came up with the nonsense that I couldn’t play this track with this account, or that track with that account, and that I couldn’t play the (Kentucky) Derby, and I couldn’t get rebates – that really (made me angry).”

Young and others on the PaceAdvantage.com forum are also angry with Woodbine Entertainment Group over several issues, including circumstances that led to the track’s Aug. 10 signal cut-off to Premier Turf Club, an ADW located in North Dakota.

It’s unclear how many would back the protests, as debate on how it should be handled continues to churn among forum members. But Young believes he has on board enough significant betting interests, including a few “whales”--large volume bettors--to make an impact.

“I expect that within a year, we are going to have appropriate simulcast rates for all ADWs,” he said.

Young said he chose not to bet this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) for the first time in 20 years because neither of his respective accounts with Youbet.com or Premier Turf Club could carry the Churchill Downs signal.

“They wanted us to go through hoops to bet the Derby,” Young said. “I could have bet it somehow. But I didn’t want to be told I couldn’t do this or that.”

TrackNet president and chief executive officer Scott Daruty said he understands the frustration felt by bettors, but believes it was unfair the new content provider has been singled out as the enemy.

“It’s ironic to me, because that’s our goal, too,” said Daruty of TrackNet’s stated premise of making racing content available outside the exclusive contract environment operated by rival TVG for the last 10 years or so. “In an ideal world, every account wagering company -- including TVG, Youbet, Churchill, and Magna – would have access to all racing content. And then the customer could choose which provider suits them best.”

He claims TrackNet has made several overtures for short-term content sharing agreements with TVG, a premise CDI president Robert Evans reiterated at the Round Table. “They continue to be rebuffed,” Daruty said of the offers.

Other ideas being discussed in the way of protests include what Young called a “procott,” which is also sometimes known as a “buycott.” In this scenario, Young said, bettors would wager strongly into the pools of a smaller track to show the “influence” of an organized front.

Postings on PaceAdvantage.com suggest a procott is being planned for Aug. 25 by using the pools of The Downs Racetrack & Casino at Albuquerque in New Mexico. Young also wants to see Yum! Brands pull its sponsorship from the Kentucky Derby and suggested he could organize protests at the company’s restaurants.

Alan Marzelli, president of The Jockey Club, said his organization isn’t taking sides, despite reading part of the petition at the Round Table.

“You get a letter, and it’s signed by 400 people … and makes legitimate points, why would you ignore it?” Marzelli said. “It’s not to say we advocate or don’t advocate what they are doing. We are simply frustrated with the state of play.

“This industry is a group of companies that form the nucleus of an interactive sport, the greatest interactive sport in the world. And we have got to behave that way. We depend on each other, we need to work with each other, and it frustrates us at The Jockey Club when we don’t.”

Marzelli repeated his feelings first voiced at the Round Table about The Jockey Club working as a facilitator in the ADW drama. He cited Equibase, of which The Jockey Club is a partner, as an example.

“Equibase and Daily Racing Form eventually formed a partnership,” he said of the one-time rivals for distributing racing statistics. “If you would have said that in 1992, people would have looked at you like you just landed on a spaceship from Mars.

“We found a way to work together. What role we play from here is up to the stakeholders.”

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