California OKs Simulcast Race Limit Increase

California Gov. Jerry Brown has approved legislation that increases from 32 to 50 the limit on the daily number of imported races on which a racing association or fair simulcast facility in the state can accept wagers.

The governor signed the bill, AB 707 by Assemblyman Martin Garrick (R-Carlsbad), on July 15. The intent of the measure, according to Garrick's office, is to help tracks and simulcast facilities boost attendance and to also increase the racing industry's leverage for deals with racetracks outside the state.

Limits on the number of races available for importing have been a source of frustration for simulcast bettors and facility operators since satellite wagering was established at county fair facilities in the state in the 1980s.

It became a more evident problem in California with the 2002 approval of Advance Deposit Wagering, which has no such restrictions on the number of races offered to people betting from home via telephone or computer. Wagering at simulcast centers in the state has been in a steep decline in recent years, at least partially as a result of ADW.

"It will certainly help California's simulcast network, although only time will tell whether it's enough to change the trends we've seen over the last few years," said Christopher Korby, executive director of the California Authority of Racing Fairs. 

Korby said the legislation is something the fairs have been seeking for some time.

He said state simulcast facilities have "lived with this artificial cap at the satellites for years. At least this gives our satellites something closer to an equal playing field (with ADW)."

Korby said the 32-race cap was negotiated in 1998 with then-Gov. Pete Wilson, who was opposed to "expansion of gaming," but saw the imposed limit as acceptable.

David Elliott, Cal Expo's racing director who also oversees the Sacramento simulcast facility, said the additional imported races should improve the situation for his simulcast customers. It also may attract some ADW bettors who can now wager on more races directly rather than through an account, he noted.

"I'm OK with it, especially since I get to take advantage of it for the next six days as the host meet (while live Thoroughbred racing is conducted at the California State Fair)," he said. "I'm hoping that those out-of-state races will provide some extra churn and we can capitalize on it."

On the down side, though, he said the change could negatively impact his harness racing business when those additional import signals are distributed at night. Cal Expo hosts the state's only harness meet, with night racing 10 months of the year.

A provision in the bill requires that no Thoroughbred association or fair may accept wagers on out-of-state races commencing after 7 p.m. PST, without the consent of the harness or Quarter Horse racing association that is then conducting live racing.

Elliott said that Los Alamitos Race Course, which conducts live Quarter Horse racing in Orange County, would likely provide consent for night-time race imports, including Thoroughbred races that are coming from outside the country.

The bill, which took effect immediately, makes an exemption to the limit on the number of races imported for certain race programs, including the following grade I events: Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Travers Stakes, Arlington Million,Breeders' Cup World Championships, Dubai World Cup, and Haskell Invitational.

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