Churchill Downs president Tom Meeker.

Churchill Downs president Tom Meeker.

Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs, Magna Team for Signal Export to Europe

North America's two biggest racetrack companies have joined forces to offer their simulcast products as a package to several European countries.

Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment Corp. announced the simulcast distribution agreement Dec. 22. Racing from 18 tracks will be exported through an MEC Austrian subsidiary, according to a release.

Outlets in Austria, Great Britain, Germany, and Ireland will receive the product. Some of the major tracks owned by the companies are Arlington Park, Churchill Downs, Gulfstream Park, and Santa Anita Park.

"By combining our racing content into one offering, we believe we have created a North American simulcast product with a level of quality and scale never before presented to European race fans," CDI president Tom Meeker said in the release. "This is an important first step in our efforts to work in tandem to penetrate the international market."

MEC president Jim McAlpine said the two companies don't expect "material financial impact" from the start, but he believes the product will be well received.

"We have repeatedly expressed our desire to work with others in our industry to grow U.S. horse racing's share of the international sports and gaming markets," McAlpine said. "This partnership is a major step toward achieving such a goal."

On Dec. 10 at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing, McAlpine outlined an MEC strategy that calls for more partnerships to move the pari-mutuel industry forward. During his talk he noted the U.S. accounts for about $15 billion in handle a year compared with $85 billion in the rest of the world.

International simulcasts are believed to be the new frontier, particularly now that the 30% withholding tax on winnings by foreign bettors has been eliminated. Pools are expected to grow should there be extensive export of U.S. product.

Greenwood Racing, which operates Philadelphia Park, for some time has been exporting U.S. racing to Great Britain, where it fits into the evening time slot. The wagers have been funneled through the (The Racing Channel) hub in Oregon.