Leader of Horsemen's Group Impatient With ADW Situation

The president of a Louisiana horsemen’s group has vowed legal and legislative action if a solution isn’t soon realized in the fractured advance deposit wagering industry.

Sean Alfortish, president of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said during a Sept. 13 conference call on the status of ADWs that certain business models must be altered to bring uniformity to signal distribution.

Alfortish made the bold statements during a call organized by bettors’ advocate Richard Young that also included TrackNet Media Group president Scott Daruty. TrackNet’s arch-rival, TVG, was invited to participate in the call but declined, while Ellis Park owner Ron Geary agreed to participate, but missed the discussion due to what his assistant said were sudden outside business matters.

“The only way diplomacy is going to work is to drop the exclusivity,” Alfortish said, referring to exclusive content contracts historically demanded by TVG. “We are working towards an amicable solution.

“But the time frame in which to respond to it is very short,” continued Alfortish, who has a background as a lawyer and a local magistrate in Kenner, La. “If something doesn’t get done, we are going to force an arrangement.”

Alfortish said he and members of the National HBPA have taken on the role of mediators in the standoff principally between TrackNet, the content partnership of Churchill Downs and Magna Entertainment, and TVG, the pioneer in televised account wagering. 

“All ADWs should allow any wagering from any track at any time where the horsemen and the track give their consent to show the signal,” Alfortish said. “And if that can’t be accomplished by a bunch of men in a room who can work out the details and the numbers so that everyone is satisfied, then I guess we are on the path to get federal or state legislation, or we are going to get judicial interpretation.”

Alfortish did not cited TVG as the focus of a lawsuit, but in an interview after the conference call, he reaffirmed his commitment to forceful action. And he added that he wouldn’t wait forever for some sort of resolution.

“I am considering court action and legislative action, both on the state and federal level,” he said. “It’s not going to be indefinitely. You can quote me on this: 2007 will be either the voluntary or involuntary death of exclusivity in racing.”

TVG, communicating through a spokesman, later said that since the company wasn’t “privy” to the conversations on the conference call, it would decline to comment for now.

Alfortish made the statements in response to Young’s pleas for resolution in an ADW scene where bettors wanting to bet a wide variety of tracks are forced to use multiple accounts. Young, a Chicago-area bettor, in August launched a petition of protest on the PaceAdvantage.com forum, and part of the document was read into record Aug. 19 by The Jockey Club president Alan Marzelli at the group’s annual Round Table Conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

“What we are concerned with as fans is being able to bet with our ADW of choice,” Young told Daruty and Alfortish. “Who is responsible? Who is the bad guy? I don’t care. We just want it over.”

Young, who launched the protest Web site boycotttracknet.com, also said he had recently reserved the domain name of boycotttvg.com.

“Hopefully, you guys will come up with a deal in the next day or two, and I can get rid of all my domain names,” he said.

Daruty held the line on other statements he has made in public debates over the ADW situation: TrackNet is willing to help straighten things out.

“We very much believe that the customer has the right to decide which ADW to use,” he told Young. “And in making that decision, the customer should have access to all content, whatever he or she decides. We are absolutely prepared to provide our content to any responsible regulated account wagering company, including and especially TVG, as long as appropriate host fees are paid.”

Young asked why TrackNet wouldn’t extend signals to Youbet.com. Daruty replied that the ADW company already has sub-licensing agreements with TVG, and the addition of TrackNet signals would give Youbet a virtual monopoly (TrackNet’s parent companies each have their own ADW platforms -- Churchill Downs with Twinspires.com and Magna Entertainment with XpressBet – neither of which carry TVG-connected meets).

“We can’t have a one-way street where TrackNet makes all of its content available and gets nothing in return,” Daruty said. “That’s the fundamental problem we have right now."

Alfortish told Young he could sympathize with bettors, noting his longtime ADW account with Louisiana-based FGNetBet didn’t handle such TVG exclusive meets as those from New York Racing Association tracks and Keeneland. And Alfortish believes the splintering of ADW signals hurts racetrack handle totals.

“Rather than wager in a place where it would have washed through and split between the tracks and the horsemen by going through our (Louisiana) system, I just didn’t bet at all,” he said.

Alfortish told Young he appreciated what the advocate was trying to accomplish.

“I applaud you the bettor for doing what you are doing and trying to continue to get everyone to the table to make this happen,” he said. “We will … mediate, arbitrate, dictate, legislate or anything else we have to do. It is the number-one priority that horsemen have in Louisiana and the nation. And it will be done soon.”

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