Youbet.com customers won’t be able to bet the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), but they will have a chance to win $1 million in a contest tied to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Derby from Churchill Downs.
The “Million Dollar Oaks-Derby Handicapping Challenge” calls for handicappers to pick the superfectas in both the Oaks and Derby. It’s open only to Youbet.com customers and is just one contest being staged by KingContest.com, according to a May 2 release. Players who are not Youbet.com members can sign up for a 60-day free trial at the Youbet.com or KingContest.com Web sites to compete in the contest.
Youbet.com normally would offer Derby wagering, but it was unable to reach an agreement with TrackNet Media Group, the new partnership of Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment Corp. that buys and sells simulcast signals. Therefore, Youbet.com isn’t carrying Churchill Downs racing.
“In yet another example of how Youbet can bring excitement to the sport even in these illogical times, we’ve devised a game that could pay a million dollars for a $10 entry,” Youbet.com chief executive officer Charles Champion said in a statement. “So, despite an impasse over an agreement to carry the races, KingContest.com will give Youbet players exciting competition this weekend anyway.”
Youbet.com said the contest would be advertised in the Louisville, Ky., market, where Churchill is located.
“A portion of the promotion budget we had in place for the Derby will be diverted to the contest,” Champion said. “The Derby is arguably the most important fan-development day in horse racing. Last year, a meaningful portion of the handle for the race was generated by fans that rely on Youbet, (International Racing Group), and TVG for their racing content. Unfortunately, those channels will be closed to fans this year. But thanks to KingContest, our customers can still have fun, test their handicapping skills, and chase after a big prize.”
Champion said Youbet.com would prefer to offer wagering on the Derby, “but we didn’t think our customers would want us to cancel our summer and fall line-up of races from Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga, Del Mar, Oak Tree, Keeneland, and many others just to get one race.”
Those tracks have exclusive agreements with TVG, which also won’t be able to offer Derby wagering this year. TVG’s exclusive contracts with CDI tracks began ending before the start of the Churchill spring meet; TVG and TrackNet Media have been unable to come to terms on a content swap.
The account wagering situation in the United States has generated confusion and unhappiness among bettors. CDI was able to launch its new account wagering service, twinspires.com, May 2, just in time for the Oaks and Derby.
In an interview on the April 24 edition of “At the Races and Beyond” on Sirius radio, TrackNet Media president Scott Daruty acknowledged the current situation is unfortunate but said the end game is more important.
“We want to get to a place where everybody has the content,” Daruty said. “This is a pain worth enduring.”
Of the negotiations with Youbet.com, Daruty said Youbet.com would have been the only account wagering provider with access to all content if it had CDI and MEC tracks. “It puts them at an unfair advantage,” he said. “We don’t think that’s appropriate.”
Daruty said a content-sharing deal between TVG and TrackNet Media would solve the problem.
AmericaTAB, a consortium of account wagering companies including WinTicket.com, recently agreed to sign on with TrackNet Media, and in turn gave up its TVG-exclusive content. The deal has led to industry speculation CDI and MEC were in talks to buy the Ohio-based company.
“We are just ripe,” AmericaTAB general manager Mike Weiss said May 1. “There are always rumors about us. But I don’t have any knowledge of or comments that (a sale is possible).”
AmericaTAB is part owned by Beulah Park, the Ohio racetrack that has been contacted by a number of interested buyers over the years, Weiss said.