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Proponents view online gambling as a sure thing.

Punters from across the nation can lay odds that it will soon be coming to a cable TV system nearby.

A recent Paul Kagan Associates seminar held in New York explored the exploding topic of interactive, remote venue-based gambling. Be it lottery, casino games, bingo or racing, speaker after speaker demonstrated how new technology has put the power to wager into consumers' homes.

TV-and cable in particular-will likely be the outlet of choice for taking the product from site to home.

But will advertising follow?

At the moment, thoroughbred and harness racing appear to have the inside track in luring advertisers to the many proposed racing channels. Racing even now uses more satellite time than all other sports combined and many major cities have a racetrack that airs a nightly recap show on cable TV.

In addition, ESPN has been a national outlet for the sport and several of racing's major events are now corporate-sponsored.

Thoroughbred racing has the Chrysler Triple Crown Challenge, consisting of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The Breeders' Cup, broadcast around the world by NBC, has many of its seven races sponsored and the prestigious Hambletonian recently was retitled the Cadillac Hambletonian, as was the Cadillac Breeders' Crown.

Further, such national advertisers as Anheuser-Busch Cos., Thrifty Rent-a-Car System, Longines-Wittnauer Watch Co. and Delta Air Lines are regular sponsors of national races on ESPN.

Some attendees of the Kagan conference feel gambling and/or racing channels should be free, advertiser-supported ventures, with additional revenue garnered from transactional fees, such as those charged by ATMs.

"You have to make that outlet available to as many people as possible," explains Colleen Anderson, ceo of IWN, a gaming subsidiary of NTN Communications.

"If you charge for the channel, all you will be doing is attracting the same core of people, not the new fans that are needed," she adds.

After many fits and false starts, interactive wagering seems to be picking up credibility.

There is now an interactive lottery system in place in Quebec; a cable bingo channel in Omaha; and a proposed interactive casino venture called Virtual Vegas. However, racing does seem to be the leader in interactive wagering applications.

The Meadows, a harness-racing track outside Pittsburgh, has offered home wagering via TV and telephone to its patrons for a decade with growing success, as has Philadelphia Park, a thoroughbred facility near the City of Brotherly Love.

Tom Chaffee, director of simulcasting for Ladbroke at The Meadows, points to Coors Brewing Co. and Coca-Cola Bottling of Pittsburgh as two blue-chip advertisers on a show that he claims reaches 800,000 viewers on a given night.

"Corporate advertisers and their agencies see racing as a viable market," he says.

Chris Scherf, exec VP of the Thoroughbred Racing Association, agrees.

"We must devise methods to bring our product to an ever-expanding fan base," he says. "Whether that be at a simulcast location or right into the home, the technology is here and racing must and will take advantage of it."

Two recent developments in New York have home-wagering advocates excited and opponents fearful.

The New York Racing Association, operator of Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga racetracks, has announced a venture with Cablevision to air a complete, live five-hour telecast of nine races directly into the homes of Cablevision subscribers on Long Island. By opening a telephone account with the NYRA or OTB, fans can watch and wager from the comfort of their easy chairs.

Not to be outdone, New York City OTB and Time Warner followed with their own plans to use a city-owned public access channel to air the same races in the five boroughs of New York.

The plans include a program to expand the concept to include night harness racing from Yonkers Raceway in Westchester County.

It's believed to be the first time that a municipal cable channel has been suggested for use as a gaming outlet, and some public interest groups in New York were critical of the announcement.

Although racing appears to be the leader in the interactive gaming arena, the UBI Consortium in Canada has Loto-Quebec as an online participant. The consortium, which includes Hearst Corp., boasts an interactive lottery.

Loto-Quebec has developed more than 60 video games. In fact, Quebec is considering building a new sports arena financed through the sale of lottery tickets.

The slogan for Loto-Quebec is "Fulfilling dreams .*.*. while building the economy."

Neil Cook deals in dreams every day as editor of K-III Communications' Daily Racing Form, thoroughbred racing's publication of record.

"Home wagering is here," says Mr. Cook. "It may not be pure interactive but that is only a matter of time. The Form is in the information business and fans of racing need and use as much information as can be provided. Any home wagering program must be entertaining and informative. .*.*.Racing is a very attractive product if presented correctly and that will help the sport attract major advertisers, such as a Delta or a Coca-Cola."

"Racing is a wonderful sport for television," says Suzanne Kennedy Flynn, founder of Woman's Interactive Network and creator of WHINNY, an interactive gaming application designed for women that is presently under development.

"Go to any casino and you will see women at the slot machines. Women love to gamble and they know technology. A home-racing channel has to present the sport in an attractive manner, while at the same time being educational. If you go to the Kentucky Derby, you will see the leaders of business there," she says.

"It isn't all for the gambling; it is entertainment," she adds. "The Kentucky Derby is America's horse race. The clerk with her $10 or the millionaire tycoon can both experience the thrill of picking the right horse. Advertisers love to reach people who are having fun."

Mark Brenner, president of ODS, a Midwestern interactive gaming company, says, "We are in the entertainment delivery business. By repackaging both the video and information elements to horse racing, we can breathe new life into the sport."

ODS is using Mark Goodson Productions and Comcast Cablevision for a interactive home test, to be conducted in Maryland.

"Before cable," explains Mr. Scherf, "you had the Triple Crown. Cable has allowed the sport to reach millions of new fans via `Racing Across America' on ESPN; the National Best Seven on ESPN 2; and numerous local racing highlight shows."

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