The impact of television on account wagering will be watched closely during an experiment in California that began Nov. 7 with the opening of Golden Gate Fields and Hollywood Park.
Racetracks, account wagering, and horsemen agreed to the experiment, which allows all advance deposit wagering providers in the state access to all in-state content. For eight months, wagering exclusivity will be gone, but TV rights to signals will remain in place.
TVG has deals with Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows for exclusive broadcast of their signals, while HRTV carries Golden Gate and the Los Angeles Turf Club meet at Santa Anita Park.
TVG, however, will be able to offer wagering on Golden Gate and Santa Anita, which like HRTV are affiliated with Magna Entertainment Corp., and MEC-owned XpressBet.com will offer bets on Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows.
“Nobody knows (how it will turn out),” TVG senior vice president and general manager David Nathanson said. “This is truly an experiment in every sense of the word, but everybody is optimistic. I think we’ll be able to have a better understanding of the impact of broad account wagering.”
Nathanson and other TVG officials have said television is a key component to account wagering. The company over the years has released figures that show substantial growth in handle on televised races versus non-televised races.
“How will Bay Meadows do with broader television distribution compared with Santa Anita?” Nathanson said. “My hypothesis is TV will have a dramatic impact in terms of what is bet across multiple ADW platforms.”
Nathanson noted that when Youbet.com had access to all content but other providers did not, TVG still retained 60% of the market in California.
During the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association summer convention in Virginia in July, horsemen railed on wagering exclusivity but did say they could live with broadcast exclusivity. Horsemen’s groups around the country played a role in facilitating the California experiment, but it remains to be whether it will evolve into policy.
“We are willing to try new things to see if a different model works,” Nathanson said. “Certainly, the experiment is in reaction to customers saying they don’t want to open multiple (betting) accounts. Too often, things are too complicated.”
In a statement, Jack Liebau, president of Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows, indicated TVG was willing to negotiate when it came time to renew the Hollywood Park deal.
“TVG is an increasingly vital component to the success of not only Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows, but the California racing industry at large,” Liebau said in the statement. “TVG approached the Hollywood Park renewal with an open mind and presented a variety of alternatives intended to enhance an already successful relationship.”
The California experiment provides for adjustments in hub fees and payment of broadcast fees.