Magna's TV Distribution Under Fire Again

Unhappy with the lack of distribution for Magna Entertainment Corporation's Horse Racing Television signals from Santa Anita, Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows, California officials vowed Feb. 20 to address the issue when license renewals for the state's three approved account wagering services come up in December.

At a pari-mutuel committee hearing, California Horse Racing Board commissioners and committee members Alan Landsburg and Roger Licht, as well as Thoroughbred Owners of California president John Van de Kamp pledged a complete review of the ADW license holders when their contract renewal requests come up.

Landsburg has been pushing a proposal that would require all racing associations to make their television signals available to all licensed ADW operators.

They were responding to a lengthy report from attorney and horse owner Aron Wellman castigating Magna for failing to live up to promises made to the CHRB and the TOC when its subsidiary, XpressBet, was approved as an ADW provider more than two years ago. He focused primarily on XpressBet's failure to achieve widespread television distribution. The latest effort is HRTV, which has a limited cable presence in the state and about 1.5 million potential subscribers nationwide, according to Magna officials.

Ron Luniewski, president of XpressBet, defended his company's efforts to sell cable and satellite operations on HRTV, but conceded, "It has been a difficult road."

Wellman alleged that Magna has given up ground in the past two years, losing its weekday television program on Fox Sports West and a weekend show on Southern California station KDOC. Its live California races are primarily available only through video streaming on XpressBet, he noted.

Landsburg, confronted with several of his statements two years ago on the importance of television in promotion of racing, admitted. "I can't say I disagree. I cannot support everything that (Wellman) said. But I did not hear anything startlingly new."

He added, "I knew that after we did that (approved XpressBet's license), we had made a mistake."

Van de Kamp said he was frustrated by the "malarkey" from XpressBet as well, but noted that the lack of TV distribution has made their contract with horsemen worth less than with the other two ADW providers in the state, TVG and Youbet.

"All three companies are going to come up at the same time (for renewal)," he said. "This is a shot across the bow."

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