Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs

Anne M. Eberhardt

Churchill Signal May Be Limited Again

It appears that wagering on the Churchill Downs spring meet will again be restricted.

Wagering on the Churchill Downs spring meet may again be restricted to customers of certain betting outlets, although negotiations appear to be ongoing to include some that are on the outside looking in.

Churchill’s annual spring meet begins April 25, and as of now, some outlets, including advance deposit wagering entities TVG and, don’t appear to have agreements for the track’s signal.

Additionally, Philadelphia Park and its Philly Phonebet ADW platform may not have access to the Churchill signal either because of a separate dispute between the track and TrackNet Media Group, which negotiates signal agreements for Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment Corp.

Last year, demands from horsemen for larger revenue splits restricted TrackNet-affiliated signals to many wagering outlets, including CDI’s and MEC’s, and the Churchill meet realized an estimated 11% drop in handle year-over-year.

This year, horsemen’s groups don’t appear to be the catalyst in the situation, as an agreement Churchill reached late last year with the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association allows for open ADW access for the track’s upcoming spring meet.

Kentucky HBPA executive director Marty Maline said his group granted consents for many outlets a few weeks ago.

“Most consents are in place,” said Maline in an April 22 interview. He added that a few traditional non-consents related to wagering sites in southern Indiana and one Tribal casino in Oklahoma were also in place. The Kentucky HBPA also has issues with one other undisclosed outlet, believed to be in Florida, that he hopes will be resolved in the near future.

“The issues with the Indiana locations are pretty well established,” added Maline, noting the Kentucky HBPA’s practice of trying to protect wagering interests at Churchill Downs and Ellis Park. “Obviously, we want our signal to go everywhere; we’ve always been diligent with our responsibilities granted to us under the Interstate Horseracing Act.”

TrackNet president Scott Daruty said in an April 22 e-mail that he didn’t have anything to report on the situation, but may have an update in the next day or two. A CDI spokesman said he hoped to have an official statement on the matter later today.

Recent history suggests Youbet may end up with the Churchill signal, as the California-based ADW has reached agreements for 2009 on TrackNet-affiliated tracks such as Gulfstream Park, Fair Grounds, Laurel Park, Oaklawn Park, and Santa Anita Park, among others. Additionally, Youbet recently gained rights to the Calder Race Course signal for the Florida track’s upcoming meet that starts April 24.

TVG is another story. The television network/ADW and TrackNet have been at odds over business-model differences since the latter joint venture was launched in March 2007. Other than California agreements that have forced sharing of certain signals such as Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita, the two companies have rarely reciprocated signal agreements.