NYRA Signal Pulled; Account Wagering Cited

The MidAtlantic Cooperative, which represents 19 racetracks and their off-track betting facilities and account wagering systems, will pull the plug on simulcasts from Belmont Park effective Sept. 15 having failed to strike a deal with the New York Racing Association.

Martin Lieberman, executive director of the cooperative, said NYRA restricted its signal in a change from previous contracts. He said NYRA insisted it would allow limited account wagering in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but had conveyed the rights in other states to the TV Games Network in a deal announced in early September.

A release from the cooperative claimed NYRA is "effectively attempting to force TVG into states where it has no presence or authority to take bets."

"This is not an economic dispute," Lieberman said in reference to previous contract negotiations over signal rates. "We want all of our members to be able to offer their fans account wagering on the NYRA races in the Mid-Atlantic region. NYRA, through its deal with TVG, has acted to limit wagering opportunities. Our members are in agreement that this is unacceptable and not in the best interests of racing fans in the region."

A NYRA official couldn't be immediately reached for comment, but John Hindman, an attorney for TVG, said: "Racing fans should know that there is nothing about our relationship with NYRA that prevents their local track from taking the NYRA simulcast signal. Unfortunately, the MidAtlantic co-op has chosen to link the intertrack signal to our rights to televise NYRA's races to the detriment of their own customers."

Details of the deal between NYRA and TVG weren't disclosed, though it is believed TVG paid cash for the in-home wagering rights to the NYRA product. In turn--though a direct link between the two never was confirmed--NYRA repaid money it had taken from the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association purse account.

An individual with knowledge of the situation said if account-wagering providers with ties to the Mid-Atlantic region want to offer the NYRA product, they'd have to strike content deals with TVG similar to those the network has with Youbet.com and AmericaTAB, for instance. Offering the Belmont signal on track and through account wagering are two different things, the individual said.

Tracks in the cooperative are Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course, Ocean Downs, and Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland; Delaware Park, Dover Downs, and Harrington Raceway in Delaware; Atlantic City Race Course, Freehold Raceway, Meadowlands, and Monmouth Park in New Jersey; The Meadows, Philadelphia Park, Penn National Race Course, and the Downs at Pocono in Pennsylvania; Colonial Downs in Virginia; and Charles Town Races in West Virginia.

In addition, two New England tracks--Rockingham Park and Suffolk Downs--are members of the cooperative. They will carry the Belmont signal through Sept. 19 because of contractual obligations.

The Mid-Atlantic region accounts for almost 25% of total handle in the United States each year. All the Pennsylvania tracks operate account-wagering systems, as does Colonial Downs in Virginia. New Jersey tracks are expected to launch account wagering in mid-October.