Maryland racing fans planning to wager on simulcasts of the prestigious fall meet at Belmont Park will find themselves shut out beginning today because of a dispute between the New York track and a cooperative that negotiates simulcasting and account wagering contracts for 19 tracks in the mid-Atlantic region, including Laurel Park and Pimlico.
The Mid-Atlantic Cooperative yesterday pulled the Belmont Park simulcast signal from all mid-Atlantic tracks after the New York Racing Association, in recent contract negotiations, announced all account wagering on Belmont races must be conducted through the TVG Network, an interactive horse racing television and betting network with which it recently signed an exclusive deal through 2007.
Although Maryland racing fans with phone betting accounts already use TVG if they want to bet on Belmont Park, other cooperative member states, such as Virginia, have been offering the New York track through their own proprietary systems.
"NYRA is . . . effectively attempting to force TVG into states where it has no presence or authority to take bets," said Martin Lieberman, executive director of the cooperative.
If the impasse is not broken, fans who bet on Belmont at Mid-Atlantic tracks will miss betting critical graded stakes races, including the Futurity, Matron and Jockey Club Gold Cup -- key prep races to the Breeders' Cup.
"We deeply regret any inconvenience this will cause our fans," said Maryland Jockey Club President Joe De Francis, who insisted Maryland would not break from the cooperative to accept the Belmont signal.
Mid-Atlantic simulcasting of Belmont Park races is worth $10 million a year in commissions for NYRA, Lieberman said.
NYRA Senior Vice President Bill Nader countered by saying Mid-Atlantic tracks earn $50 million a year from the simulcast of its races, and that account wagering in the Mid-Atlantic accounts for only 1 percent of the money bet from the region on Belmont Park.
"I never thought they would have reacted the way they did for less than 1 percent of the entire pie," Nader said.
Nader declined to report the value of NYRA's exclusive deal with TVG.
"Everybody understands the real loser is the consumer," he said of the impasse. "That's the most disappointing message we can send our customers, so hopefully we can pull a rabbit out of the hat on this."
-- John Scheinman