Local horseplayers probably will be able to resume full-scale betting on races from Santa Anita and other major tracks today, the result of an agreement between the signal provider and state race books.
TrackNet and the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association on Thursday agreed in principle to a two-year contract, ending a 16-day blackout of the live TV feed from as many as 17 tracks around the country.
John Avello, Wynn Las Vegas race and sports director, said a few details still had to be worked out for the TrackNet signal to resume today. Avello took part in the negotiations on behalf of the Pari-Mutuel Association.
“There are t’s to cross and i’s to dot,” he said. “There’s some legal language that has to be finalized, we have to get the actual contract signed, and we still have to get the approval of the Gaming Control Board. Hopefully, if everything falls into place, we’ll be up and running (today).
“But this was a lot tougher than anyone could imagine. Offers take a long time. One offer can take a week with so many parties involved on both sides. It’s like trying to move a boulder instead of a small rock.”
Scott Daruty, president and chief executive officer of TrackNet, said, “There were a number of important issues, both economic and non-economic. But at the end of the day, both sides got a deal they could live with.”
Terms weren’t disclosed, but a source with knowledge of the deal said the NPMA will pay TrackNet higher fees than in the previous contract, which expired Dec. 31. Two extensions kept the signal on the air locally through Jan. 27.
Under the new deal, NPMA members will pay for the TrackNet signal on a tiered basis. The premium tier will include Santa Anita, Churchill Downs and Gulfstream. The second tier would include Oaklawn Park, Fair Grounds, Golden Gate Fields, Laurel, Arlington and Lone Star Park.
“We recognize there are different levels of our product,” Daruty said. “We were never looking to charge the same fee for all of our tracks.”
The timing of the deal is fortuitous for both sides. On the three-day Presidents Day Weekend, big graded stakes races are scheduled at Santa Anita and Gulfstream. Horseplayers will be able to bet the lucrative Pick 6 pools as well as a full wagering menu, which they had to do without during the blackout.
When the blackout began Jan. 28, some local books decided to book the blacked-out tracks as non-pari-mutuel. Both TrackNet and the NPMA said the blackout’s economic impact was minimal, but neither would disclose numbers.
“We don’t think the impact was significant to our tracks,” Daruty said. “We had enough handle through other outlets to make up whatever shortfall there was from Nevada. But when you look at the inconvenience to the Nevada customers that this caused, we sincerely apologize.”
Avello said, “The good thing is (the agreement) gets everything going again for the players and gives them their normal routine back.”
Internet wagering was the other stumbling block during the negotiations. TrackNet was said to be concerned Nevada would launch Internet account wagering and begin competing against the TrackNet-sponsored betting services, Twinspires.com and XpressBet.com.
There is no Internet wagering system in Nevada, and telephone wagering is available through some properties. Neither TrackNet Internet wagering service is available to Nevada residents.
“At this time it’s not an issue,” Avello said. “But it was discussed, and it could be something both sides will have to deal with in the future.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.