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Hawthorne Reaches Agreement With Contest Site DerbyWars

Hawthorne Race Track in ChicagoIn the first agreement of its kind between a racetrack and racing contest site, DerbyWars will contribute revenue to Hawthorne Race Course and Illinois horsemen.

DerbyWars, the largest horse racing contest website, and Hawthorne announced the agreement March 10. It calls for DerbyWars to contribute a portion of contest revenue on Hawthorne races for distribution to both the racetrack and horsemen (through purses). DerbyWars will receive the right to broadcast live video of Hawthorne's races to its customer base and have access to racing data.  

"Contests continue to be a very bright spot for horse racing, and as contests grow, the next logical step is to partner with racetracks," said DerbyWars chief executive officer Mark Midland. "We are excited to lead the way in this area and look forward to announcing additional track agreements in the near future."

Midland didn't disclose the percentage of DerbyWars handle wagered on Hawthorne races that will be committed to the Illinois track and horsemen (purses), but he said it's similar to agreements the track has with ADW sites. He did say the revenues would be split equally between the track and purses.

Contest sites have sprung up in recent years, allowing players to compete against one another on a select number of races. The betting is not pari-mutuel, and to this point, the contest sites have not paid tracks or horsemen for use of their races.

Midland has said he always envisioned his contest site, which launched in 2011, eventually working with racetracks. But without such agreements in place previously, the site came under fire late last year when the tracks of The Stronach Group filed a lawsuit against DerbyWars.

Last month at a California Horse Racing Board committee meeting, Stronach Group representative Scott Daruty the group began talks with DerbyWars that he thought would lead to a settlement of the lawsuit. Daruty noted that DerbyWars was open to paying the tracks and horsemen compensation.

The Louisville, Ky.-based DerbyWars and Hawthorne have had a close relationship for some time, partnering on daily survivor contests last year. DerbyWars also sponsored Hawthorne's National Handicapping Championship qualifying contests in November 2015.

Hawthorne general manager John Walsh said DerbyWars is working to attract new horseplayers to the sport.

"Our players are excited about contests and our hope is that contests can become a vehicle for getting new fans into the sport," Walsh said. "We can see that DerbyWars is working to expose new fans through contests, and we want to be supportive of that innovation." 

Hawthorne's spring Thoroughbred race meet runs from March 11-April 30, followed by a May 6-Sept. 24 Standardbred meet and a fall Thoroughbred meet running Oct. 7-Dec. 31. 

- by Frank Angst/



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