A stalemate between California horsemen and advance deposit wagering companies kept Hollywood Park's out-of-state signal unavailable on opening day of the track's fall season Oct. 29.
Hollywood Park, expecting a drop in handle due to the ADW dispute, immediately announced a 6.25% cut in overnight purses for its 40-day meet, effective Nov. 2. That's on top of an overnight purse slice of about 7% Hollywood made heading into the meet in anticipation of lower revenue due to an ailing economy.
“I am extremely disappointed that wagering on Hollywood Park races will not be available through account wagering outside California,” Jack Liebau, president of Hollywood Park, said in a statement. “This curtailment in account wagering will be economically harmful to everyone within the industry, and will be compounded by the tumultuous economic times in which we find ourselves."
During its broadcast of Hollywood Park's opening-day program, TVG -- the largest of the four account wagering companies licensed in the state -- made repeated announcements about the impasse. Commentators urged customers outside of California to contact the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the horsemen's representative, to protest the unavailability of interstate wagering via phone or Internet.
TVG, Youbet.com, XpressBet.com, and TwinSpires.com are all taking wagers on Hollywood Park races from California residents, but cannot accept bets from out-of-state customers until the issue is resolved. The horsemen and Hollywood Park had reached an agreement Oct. 10 for operation of the meet, including a new overnight and stakes purse schedule, but left the issue of host fees for interstate ADW open.
The TOC, which is part of the national Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group, wants a bigger share from the ADW companies for use of its interstate signal. Drew Couto, president of the TOC, said that so far, the ADWs have refused to negotiate in good faith. Couto said Hollywood Park overestimated the size of the purse cut needed as a result of the anticipated loss of revenue due to the dispute, which he put at 4.7%.
He also said TVG is "posturing" and "blaming others for its refusal to negotiate." He said TVG has used its potential sale as an excuse to avoid resolving the issue on its merits.
"We have spoken to TVG once in four months," Couto said. "TrackNet Media (representing XpressBet.com and TwinSpires.com), same thing, once in four months. If they believe that shows an intent to resolve this, they are sorely mistaken. We have made seven proposals to them, and we have not heard anything on any of them."
In a statement from TVG, company president David Nathanson said: “The TOC decision is bad for everyone involved in horse racing. Purses are being cut. Horsemen will lose money. Hollywood Park will lose revenue. Worst of all, this action hurts the fans when the industry needs them the most.”
Nathanson said TVG would be forced to cut back on its trackside programming while continuing to televise the races from the Inglewood track.
TVG was running an advertisement contending that if the contract TOC wants had been in effect for the spring/summer meet at Hollywood Park, it would have produced $500,000 less than what TVG paid under the existing agreement. "Horsemen, how is this in your best interest?" a narrator asks, then urges them to call Couto and the TOC to complain.
Couto was unimpressed. "If they want to lie to their patrons, then that's something they have to live with," he said.