Keep an eye on simulcast dispute

I remember the days when simulcasting first began that the host tracks considered the money bet at simulcast locations as “found money.” The commission back then was typically 3 percent and the host track was happy to get it.

Four decades later, if it weren’t for simulcasting, a lot of marginal racetracks would be out of business.

I bring this up because there is an on-going simulcast dispute between Monarch Content Management, which mainly is the Frank Stronach owned Magna tracks, and MidAtlantic Cooperative, which is a partnership of eastern Thoroughbred and Standardbred tracks.

Scott Daruty, president of Monarch, is seeking rate increases especially to some sites that no longer offer live racing. He told the Daily Racing Form, “We question whether that one-size-fits-all model should continue to apply.”

MidAtlantic, in a press release, said it “has accepted premium pricing for premium content since its first year of existence.” But it stands firm that “members are equal partners and shall, by agreement, receive equal treatment with regard to price increases.”

It’s a tricky problem caused mostly by the fact that the horse racing betting pie is shrinking. Thus, every party is fighting to protect its share.

Where it potentially could affect us in Nevada is the three major content providers, Monarch, Churchill Downs Inc. and the New York Racing Association all must sign new deals with the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association, which represents member casinos in the state.

If everything goes well, you won’t hear a peep and the simulcast signals will continue uninterrupted.

However, the comments by Daruty about sites that don’t offer live racing had me wondering if his posture with our casino race books would change. You’d have to be a real old-timer to remember live racing at Las Vegas Downs.

I’m of the opinion that you will not find a better simulcast presentation for horse racing than here locally. Add in the fact that nearly 40-million tourists visit Las Vegas each year creates exposure for the sport in our casinos that you cannot put a dollar amount on.

EMPTY CHAIRS — I’ve been reading this week what is coming out of the symposium at the University of Arizona Racetrack Industry Program. One quote from Rick Baedeker, executive director of the California Horse Racing Board, caught my eye. When asked about the many problems facing the California horse racing industry, including the recent increases of takeout rates, Baedeker replied, “It’s like sitting at a poker table and the house says we’re raising the ante. All we’re going to be left with is empty chairs.”

2015 DRF/NTRA NHC TOUR — Signups are now being accepted for the 2015 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship tour. The entry fee is only $50 while offering $250,000 in prize money. The 2014 tour will end with the NHC at Treasure Island this Jan. 23-25.

OAKLAWN ADMISSION FREE — One of the biggest racetrack success stories in recent years has been the resurgence of Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. Since they implemented Instant Racing, a quasi slot machine using historical races, purses have skyrocketed. Owner Charles Cella announced that grandstand admission is free for their entire meet. Cella gets it in the fact that when a track benefits from a new revenue stream, the racing fan also deserves a break.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.

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