Derby, Oaks Signal Rights Debated

Derby, Oaks Signal Rights Debated
Photo: Churchill Downs

Horsemen at odds with TrackNet Media Group over advance deposit wagering revenue sharing plans are suggesting a proposal that would allow all ADWs to carry programs of both the May 2 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I)  and May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

But Churchill Downs Inc., which is a partner with Magna Entertainment Corp. in TrackNet, claims an October 2006 contract endorsed by Kentucky horsemen allows it to specifically sell ADW signals for the Oaks and Derby, as well as the May 3 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT).

"Given the gravity and urgency of the situation, we request (horsemen's) confirmation that it will honor those obligations," Churchill Downs president Steve Sexton wrote in April 20 letters to the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent Protective Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association. 

Horsemen using the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group as brokers for ADW signal negotiations have vowed to withhold approval for the Churchill Downs meet, which starts April 26, and the Calder Race Course meet, which begins April 21. Signal approval has already been withheld from Lone Star Park.

Horsemen are proposing a special licensing agreement that would allow ADWs signals for the Oaks and Derby, “with resulting proceeds shared fairly among horsemen, racetracks, and account wagering providers,” according to an April 21 news release.

“Not only do we think this is the right thing to do for our fans, this THG proposal obviously benefits the entire account wagering industry and will triple, at the very least, the expected account wagering handle and revenue for Churchill Downs and Kentucky horsemen,” said THG resident Bob Reeves in the release.

TrackNet and THG-affiliated horsemen are at a standstill over ADW signal negotiations. TrackNet has said the THG model of giving one-third of takeout on ADW wagers to horsemen won’t work for a variety of reasons.

Calder Race Course opened its 38th season of Thoroughbred racing April 21 without a signed contract between the racetrack and the Florida division of the HBPA to distribute purse money. In a news release, CDI said the Florida HBPA denied Calder Race Course permission to distribute its simulcast signal to inter-state outlets and ADWs. The signal was only made available intra-state to off-track betting facilities in Florida.

“It’s unfortunate that the Florida horsemen have chosen to not discuss a contract with us until all issues with advance-deposit wagering and future slot machine revenue splits are resolved because we are willing to provide our simulcast signal to off-track betting facilities and horseplayers nationwide,” said Sexton in the release. “We’ve communicated to the Florida HBPA that we do not know when slot operations will commence. Our discussions are ongoing and we hope to resolve our differences expeditiously.”

Churchill Downs and Magna, respectively, own account wagering companies TwinSpires.com and XpressBet. TrackNet Media serves as the business agent for TwinSpires.com and XpressBet.

Rick Hiles, president of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said in the release that “horsemen will not use America’s most popular racing events as leverage to advance our business goals at the expense of the racing public.

“Kentucky HBPA has instructed the THG to carve out Derby and Oaks days and offer a licensing agreement to all national account wagering companies for those two racing programs. And Kentucky HBPA will authorize Churchill Downs to sell the Derby and Oaks cards to every national account wagering company that accepts THG’s offer.”

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, which, along with the Kentucky HBPA must grant approvals for the Churchill Downs meet, is also backing the proposal, according to the release.

In addition to Twinspires and XpressBet, THG wants the two-day license open to ADWs such as TVG, Youbet.com, The Racing Channel, BetPad, among others.

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