|The California Horse Racing Board last Thursday approved licences for two companies to begin accepting bets by phone and over the Net, according to Bill Christine of the LA Times. The decision is a surprise to industry leaders, who had expected a long wait for licences such as these to be granted.|
The board ratified the action of Gov. Gray Davis, making the system legal from January 1st.
The two companies involved are Magna Entertainment Corp, which owns Santa Anita, and the Television Games Network (TVG). Customers of both were allowed to open accounts with almost immediate effect. One other application was temporarily denied, and a fourth application withdrawn.
The granting of the licences is a sign that the authorities are aware of the hard times facing horse racing, which has to compete against casinos and offshore bookmakers and other sports, as well as online gambling and lotteries. According to Mark Wilson, president of TVG: 'This could be the start of a new era in California racing,' adding: “What is racing, 13th or 14th in popularity among all sports? Maybe this will bring the game back to the status it had years ago.'
Magna, meanwhile, are bullish on the prospect of a renaissance in horseracing:
'We're going to be as aggressive as possible in moving forward with our program,' said Jim McAlpine, president of Magna Entertainment. 'The fact that we've spent $300 million on our California tracks in the last three years says that we're committed to racing. This is not about recycling the fans we have, it's about growing the business.'