The applications for Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields‘ upcoming after-Christmas meets were both conditionally approved without incident Nov. 29 during a California Horse Racing Board meeting at Del Mar.
The approval, which is pending an agreement with advance-deposit wagering company TwinSpires, lacked the controversy of previous discussions on the topic as The Stronach Group pulled its proposed plans to revamp the way pari-mutuel wagering is conducted in Northern California.
At the October CHRB meeting, the Thoroughbred Owners of California and others opposed a proposal by The Stronach Group to not have Golden Gate import any out-of-state signals to any brick-and-mortar locations in Northern California, other than the signal from the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
That move would have required all wagering on out-of-state tracks in Northern California to go through an ADW (and The Stronach Group owns XpressBet), but according to The Stronach Group executive Scott Daruty and TOC president and CEO Greg Avioli, the track owner has abandoned that proposal.
“They’re positioned to have the exact same simulcasting imports they had in 2017,” Avioli said.
Daruty emphasized after the CHRB meeting that plans to move Northern California wagering to ADWs has been shelved “for the time being” and that it is still a goal going forward.
“We think we have ways to make it better,” Daruty said.
How those plans will ultimately take shape remains to be seen. In previous CHRB meetings, the idea of “ADW cafes” to replace traditional brick-and-mortar satellite facilities has been discussed, but Avioli stressed the importance of moving forward technologically without “alienating” the base of bettors who may not be willing to send all of their wagers through an ADW account.
The Stronach Group still has a pending legal challenge to the CHRB’s policy that Golden Gate must send its simulcast signal to the region’s brick-and-mortar satellite facilities that operate through the Northern California Off-Track Wagering Incorporated in order to operate a race meeting.
“Their fundamental lawsuit is still pending, so I think the resolution to that will give preference to one way or the other,” Avioli said. “We’re pro technology, and we don’t disagree with a lot of the general concepts for what they’re calling ‘ADW cafes.’ … It makes sense, but the question is, how do you manage the transition in such a way without damaging the purse-generating ability and alienating the fans?”
The lone dissenting opinion on the meet applications came from California Authority of Racing Fairs executive director Larry Swartzlander, who didn’t like the trend of short-term agreements before every meet.
“This will be the third satellite agreement we’ve signed outside of reforming NOTWINC,” Swartzlander said. “It’s a situation that needs to be resolved, and when this is reheard, I guess, in April or May for the summer (Golden Gate) meet, (there) needs to be a resolution to what NOTWINC is going to look like in the North. It’s simply not acceptable to sign another agreement.”