No Derby betting in Vegas? It’s possible

Feb 7, 2009 8:25 PM
by Mark Mayer | Has the horse racing industry ever been lower? Yes, when Ruffian and Barbaro broke down during races and had to be destroyed. But from a betting standpoint, this standoff over money between the TrackNet Media Group and the 80 some members of the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association has made the racing customers the biggest losers.

"It’s a tremendous disappointment to race and sports book managers, personnel and customers," said Eric St. Clair, race and sports director of operations for Eastside Cannery, Cannery and Rampart. "The customer is really getting the bad end of stick. When California tracks and Gulfstream are not there it hurts, but there has to come a time when this town says we can’t afford to pay TrackNet this amount."

Currently the dispute involves five tracks – Santa Anita, Golden Gate, Gulfstream, Oaklawn and Laurel. The deadlock has brought the end to simulcasts from those tracks into the Nevada books, which basically has stopped betting action. The books are "business as usual" booking tracks not affected by the dispute, but the road ahead is rocky.

"Since Churchill Downs and Magna International are tied into TrackNet, it’s entirely possible that we will not be booking the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness," St. Clair said. "You can book the Derby itself, but to do that you have to get information from a licensed disseminator which will offer it, but as a cost."

Plus, by doing that, the books are at a risk to get hurt at the window.

"Booking nonparimutuels has no guarantees of winning," St. Clair said. "Somebody can hit you for a big pick three or exacta. You are not going to win that day if you hold the normal 20 percent with all the other bets. It’s a gamble and you have to be careful what bets you are booking."

There’s still nearly three months to the running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, but St. Clair doesn’t see either side giving ground.

"Absolutely this could last all the way through the Derby," St. Clair said. "The pari-mutuel association isn’t going to give much ground from where they are at. The shame is you have a horse racing business that is literally dying."