No Santa Anita Clause for TVG

TVG viewers won't be getting what they wanted most for Christmas -- to watch and wager on races from Santa Anita Park starting with the new season on Dec. 26.

Negotiations aimed at a one-year content sharing arrangement on California racing between TVG and its rival, Magna Entertainment's XpressBet, failed to produce an agreement, both sides say. So for the time being, Santa Anita remains the centerpiece of XpressBet's winter schedule, which along the Magna network HorseRacing TV, is the dominant force in account deposit wagering for the first quarter of each racing calendar.

"I believe, at this point, it's not going to happen," said Tony Allevato, vice president and executive producer for TVG, on Dec. 22. TVG retains its exclusivity in California over signals from Hollywood Park, Del Mar and Oak Tree from Santa Anita.

Scott J. Daruty, chief U.S. Counsel for MEC, said last week that "significant business issues" remained to be resolved. While declining to specify what the obstacles are, he said he was encouraged by TVG's willingness to negotiate and expected the talks to continue.

However, Allevato, while stressing that he is not involved in the current discussions, said fans shouldn't expect to see a resolution this season.

"I'm deeply disappointed since to all of California racing this would surely have been a benefit," said Richard Shapiro, chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, who had strongly urged the two sides to come to an agreement that would have increased wagering for the state. He said ADW customers are poorly served by "the burdensome need to constantly be switching" between the two services.

The Thoroughbred Owners of California had proposed that TVG and XpressBet share content on a one-year experimental basis to see what effect it would have on ADW. The original legislation governing home betting expires at the end of 2007 and many in the industry, including Shapiro, feel that a new law should bar so-called "exclusivity agreements" between the networks and racetrack associations. That would potentially open the tracks to any licensed ADW provider that wants to take wagers.

"From a programming standpoint, it's extremely disappointing a deal couldn't be made," Allevato said. "Hopefully, it will be possible at some point in the future."