Money remains TrackNet hurdle

Time is running out for the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association to reach a deal to keep the television signal for several popular horse tracks from being blacked out in the state’s 80 race books.

Negotiations have stalled between the NPMA and TrackNet, which owns the rights to the signal from 17 tracks, including Santa Anita and Golden Gate in California as well as Gulfstream in Florida and the Fair Grounds in Louisiana.

The current contract initially expired Dec. 31, and an extension agreed to by both sides ran out Sunday. But no racing is scheduled until Wednesday, giving them another 48 hours to hammer out a deal.

“Right now, I’m less optimistic than previously,” John Avello, the director of race and sports at Wynn Las Vegas who has been involved with the negotiations, said Sunday. “We’ve offered to pay more for all the tracks, not just the premium ones, and the offer we’ve made has been very fair.

“It’s the same issue. It comes down to money.”

Scott Daruty, president and chief executive officer of TrackNet, said Sunday what Nevada thinks is reasonable and what his group thinks is reasonable are two different things.

“We can’t seem to come together on that issue,” he said. “They just don’t want to pay as much as we think the product is worth.

“It’s not unreasonable to think we can get a deal done at the last minute. But I don’t want to speculate as to whether we will. We’re still quite a ways apart, and while the discussions have been pleasant and cordial, we haven’t been able to get anywhere.”

If a new deal can’t be reached by Wednesday, Avello said, the race books are prepared to offer wagering on some of the blacked-out tracks.

“We’ve got a contingency plan in place,” he said. “We’ll book it non-pari-mutuel, like in the old days. But it’ll probably mean a limited menu with house limits. We also will look to expand our inventory, using other tracks to replace the blacked-out signal.”

Avello said Nevada would prefer to use a tiered system, paying more for premium tracks such as Santa Anita and Gulfstream but less for tracks that don’t produce much revenue. TrackNet reportedly wants an all-inclusive price for all 17 of its tracks.

It has been the biggest sticking point in negotiations.

“This isn’t about Santa Anita,” Avello said. “It’s about TrackNet and all its tracks. It’s about what they’re worth, and to us that worth is not the same with each track.”

Daruty agrees.

“We’re not asking each track to be the same,” he said. “What we’re saying is the worth of the entire product is more than Nevada is willing to pay for.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ or 702-387-2913.

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