Churchill Downs said Oct. 24 it has not yet received consent from horsemen to distribute its racing signal to national advance deposit wagering sites for its fall meet, which starts Oct. 26.
The track has been locked for months in sometimes contentious negotiations with horsemen over distribution of its signal to ADWs, which specialize in online, telephone, and mobile device wagering. Churchill Downs executives said they hope to resolve the situation as soon as possible.
“At this time, we do not anticipate reaching an agreement prior to the start of the meet on Sunday, Oct. 26, which means our opening-day signal will not be available on (the Churchill Downs-owned) TwinSpires.com or any other national ADW site,” Kevin Flanery, senior vice president for Churchill Downs, Inc., said in a statement. “We are making every effort to resolve this issue so our customers will be able to enjoy wagering on the Churchill signal as soon as possible.”
The Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association (KTA) have insisted on a higher percentage of revenues gleaned from ADW wagers, and have refused to grant federally-authorized consent for the signal to be distributed to such entities. The signal was blocked to ADWs for Churchill Downs’ spring meet, which in part helped account for an estimated 11% decline in handle.
Churchill Downs implemented a 20% purse cut during the spring meet, and also filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against defendants that include the Kentucky HBPA, the KTA, the national Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group, and related officers. The THG, which currently includes 19 member groups, is serving as a negotiating agent in signal talks.
Leaders of the Kentucky HBPA and the KTA recently told The Blood-Horse that an agreement in principle had been reached with Churchill Downs that would have allowed the racing signal to go out to all ADW entities. But that deal fell apart when Churchill Downs added new conditions, the horsemen said.
The Kentucky HBPA earlier filed a counter-claim in the federal lawsuit filed by Churchill Downs, seeking upwards to $5 million in damages for both lost revenues it claims were not paid out for ADW wagers made through TwinSpires.com, and for purse money that was withheld from the spring meet purse cut.
Rick Hiles, president of the Kentucky HBPA, has said that Churchill Downs wants the counter-claim dropped as part of the conditions for an ADW signal agreement, something the association does not want to do at this time. Churchill Downs officials have neither confirmed nor denied that allegation.
Following its opening-day card, Churchill Downs will be dark on Oct. 27-28. Racing resumes on Oct. 29.