Despite not being able to take bets on the two California Thoroughbred tracks currently operating, the Television Games Network said it is running neck and neck with competing account wagering entity XpressBet on total telephone and Internet handle for the first 12 days of legal advance deposit wagering (ADW) by California residents.
TVG said it has handled $598,271 in wagers by California account holders since Jan. 25, representing 48.4% of the total ADW handle. The only in-state racing available for wagering on TVG presently is Los Alamitos, a Quarter horse track that runs at night. TVG's current out-of-state signals include Aqueduct and Turfway Park. TVG is available on the Dish satellite network and it was recently announced that Adelphia cable will carry it in several cities in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, including Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Hermosa Beach, La Habra, Seal Beach, and Beverly Hills.
XpressBet, owned by Magna Entertainment, takes betting on the California tracks Santa Anita Park and Bay Meadows, along with a number of out-of-state tracks, including Gulfstream Park. Santa Anita, Bay Meadows, and Gulfstream are owned by Magna. Magna has had no extensive programming available but recently announced the planned launch of the Racetrack Television Network, which fans can obtain by paying a $99.99 monthly fee, plus equipment and installation charges. RTN will show Santa Anita's current meeting, but will not be able to televise any of the major tracks that have signed exclusive contracts with TVG. Those tracks include Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Belmont Park, Saratoga, Arlington Park, Calder, Hollywood Park, Del Mar, and the Oak Tree Racing Association meeting at Santa Anita.
"We are very pleased to be off to such a good start, especially considering we have offered wagering on only one live in-state signal, Los Alamitos, for the first two weeks," said Mark Wilson, president and chief executive officer of TVG. "Our percentages are very encouraging based on the overall pari-mutuel handle in the state and the fact that our marketing programs and cable carriage have yet to launch. Fans are responding positively and our systems are working very well.
"The signals that MEC has kept from us represent a 14 to 1 overall handle differential for the state, so we're pleased to be running neck and neck at this point considering that this is supposed to be their strongest part of the calendar. The handle to date shows the power of television and our operation. We expect our percentage to drop somewhat over the next few weeks but the rest of the year looks very promising for our horsemen and track partners."
Andrew Gaughan, Magna's vice president of new media initiatives, could not be reached for comment.
TVG officials said all-sources average daily handle on California Thoroughbred tracks running currently is
approximately $15 million. All-sources average daily handle on Los Alamitos is $1.2 million.
Both TVG and XpressBet were licensed last month by the California Horse Racing Board to conduct ADW, which was made possible by legislation passed last year. TVG and MEC had lengthy negotiations that broke off early this year, forcing California fans to open accounts with both companies if they wish to bet the entire California circuit. Once Santa Anita closes in April, Californians will need to open TVG accounts to wager on any of the other tracks in the southern part of the state. Magna owns the other major Northern California track, Golden Gate Fields.