Roberts joins Magna, Greenwood for satellite venture

February 05, 2002 7:55 AM
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Horse racing fans interested in following the progress of their favorite horses competing at racetracks around the country will now have an opportunity to “watch and wager,” thanks to an innovative program begun by a Las Vegas businessman.

Todd Roberts, president and chief executive officer of Roberts Communications Network, has joined with Magna Entertainment Corp. (MIEC), and Greenwood Racing Inc. of Pennsylvania, in forming Racetrack Television Network. The new venture will permit racing fans to install video dishes at their homes or offices and receive race signals from a number of American tracks.

RTN will provide up to eight channels of horse racing that can be accessed through digital set-top box and small dish satellite receiver technology.

“Our new service is technically compatible with the old Television Racing Network direct satellite service for which Roberts Communications Network previously provided technical infrastructure,” Roberts explained. TRN, unable to meet its financial commitments, went out of business last year, leaving some 3,000 subscribers without telecasting services.

“We saw that there was tremendous value in what they were doing,” said Roberts, “so we did the math that would make such an enterprise viable and found the price point where it works.”

Roberts joined with Greenwood Racing, operators of Philadelphia Park and the originator of TRN, and Magna Entertainment in forming an LLC to revive a home-television system. Greenwood has had a call-a-bet wagering system for a number of years while California has recently licensed Magna Entertainment to offer advanced deposit wagering.

“We are the managing partner,” added Roberts, while the other two have the responsibility of providing the content.” Magna Entertainment owns or has operating rights to eight racetracks while Greenwood has relationships with other Pennsylvania tracks and others in New Jersey.

Explaining that his new venture will not actually compete with Television Game Network (TVG), Roberts said he felt TVG offered less actual racing and more programs toward educating new players while “we will offer tons of races to serious racing fans.”

As for its impact on Nevada residents, Roberts said state law does not permit telephone wagering across state lines but that anyone interested in viewing the races through RTN’s service could add the wagering component by establishing a telephone account with one of Nevada’s licensed racebooks.

The service launched its free preview service last week and will begin charging customers for subscriptions on March 1.

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