Handicappers Call for Boycott of Magna

A disgruntled professional handicapper is mobilizing fellow players to boycott all tracks owned by Magna Entertainment Corp. The action comes in response to the company's recent decision to discontinue accepting bets from account wagering providers other than the Magna-owned platform Xpressbet.com.

The Web site boycottmagna.com was recently launched by California resident Richard Bauer to help band together bettors that are angered by Magna's new restrictive account wagering policy. Only Youbet.com currently has a deal with Magna but it allows wagering only on Magna's California-based tracks.

Boycottmagna.com references a December 2001 article from Bloodhorse.com in which Magna chief executive officer Jim McAlpine challenged the industry, including TV Games Network, which holds exclusive contracts with dozens of tracks, to stop restricting access.

"Our objective is to get as much content in front of as many customers using multiple distribution channels," McAlpine said. "We believe the best environment for horsemen and racetrack owners is to have competitive alternatives for producers to get their racing products to market."

Bauer said Magna's decision to limit access goes against that policy.

"This action is completely inconsistent with Mr. McAlpine's statements," Bauer said. "To be honest with you, I don't know what they perceive the problem to be. I would like to have someone from Magna make a statement that defines the problem that they are solving with this action."

McAlpine did not return phone messages left Friday morning.

Bauer indicated opening an Xpressbet account is not an option for him. He said he had an Xpressbet account when the service was first offered in California in 2002, but the Web site was full of technical problems and was too cumbersome to navigate.

"It was full of bugs," said Bauer, who also operates the Web sites socalturf.com and tampaturf.com. "I tried making suggestions to them about streamlining it, but to no avail."

Recent advertisements for Xpressbet mentions the site has been redesigned with a streamlined look that is easier to use.

Bauer, who said he bets six-figures each year, "and the first number isn't a one," hopes providing a place for handicappers to voice their opposition to Magna's policies can elicit change.

"If we can collectively make ourselves heard we can influence change," said Bauer, who spent $25 to get the site up and running, most of which was to register the domain name. "I'm from the school that says you can't make a difference if you don't try. I'm trying."

Bauer also takes exception to Magna's latest policy because he said it is hurting his state's finances.

"The state government finances here in California are in shambles and here is Magna mishandling and mistreating a substantial revenue source," Bauer said. "The handle for Santa Anita is down over the first two weeks of the meet when compared to last year. Perhaps they have a hidden agenda that involves getting other revenue sources, such as slot machines."

In the meantime, Bauer said he is shifting most of his Internet-based wagering offshore, with the exception of Del Mar and Fairplex Park.

"Those venues, particularly Del Mar, do more for the state of California than do the other major meets," Bauer said. "I will support them via the pari-mutuel avenue."

Fifteen handicappers, several of which contacted described themselves as "major players," have gone on record in support of the boycott during the site's first week of operation.