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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


(this story originally appeared in Thoroughbred Daily News, Saturday, January 14, 2023)

By T.D. Thornton for Thoroughbred Daily News — A business partnership between performance-figure provider Thoro-Graph, Inc., and the New York Racing Association (NYRA) that had been billed as a “win-win-win” deal for the two parties and advance-deposit wagering (ADW) customers when it first launched in 2017 has gone sour, resulting in a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court. According to the civil complaint, Thoro-Graph is suing both NYRA and its NYRA Bets ADW platform over the alleged non-payment of at least $333,000 that Thoro-Graph believes is its rightful cut for incentivizing horseplayers to become NYRA Bets customers via a free, membership-based portal called Thoro-Graph Player Services (TGPS).

Thoro-Graph claimed in its complaint that its portal grew NYRA’s betting handle by $100 million over a roughly five-year span, “solely through the joint venture resulting in $3 million in revenue” for NYRA. When the alignment between the two entities was first announced in 2017, the deal was billed as giving Thoro-Graph an ADW partner, while NYRA Bets got a valuable pipeline of new customers. Horseplayers would benefit too, a TGPS executive explained at the time of the launch, because they would get access to “concierge-level support,” volume-based wagering rebates, on-track visitation amenities and discounts on Thoro-Graph handicapping products.

But according to the lawsuit, “Defendant NYRA failed to perform its part of the bargain [by allegedly not paying] Plaintiff its full 50% share of its Net Revenue,” wrote Karen Murphy, the attorney for Thoro-Graph, in the Dec. 19, 2022, filing. “That breach has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to date and has impacted the value of Plaintiff’s corporation resulting in additional lost profits to Plaintiff,” the complaint stated.

The filing stated that the dispute involves how net revenues are calculated: “Plaintiff is entitled to its full 50% share of defendant NYRA’s revenue that is generated from the handle wagered on NYRA races by non-New York residents and paid to defendant NYRA. In failing to do so, defendant NYRA is in material breach of its core financial obligation to pay Plaintiff its full revenue share under the terms of the joint venture.”

The complaint contended that Thoro-Graph attempted “good faith settlement efforts” to square up the purportedly mounting non-payments, including making a written demand for the money on June 13, 2022, and a meeting with NYRA representatives to discuss the issue. “[NYRA’s] response was to intimidate Plaintiff with the threat of termination of the joint venture and not to address the failure to pay Plaintiff its full 50/50 share,” the complaint stated. NYRA then followed through with a letter Dec. 12 giving a 180-day notice of termination of the partnership.

That action, in turn, led to Thoro-Graph’s lawsuit one week later seeking “compensatory damages which are no less than $500,000 [and] estimated additional damages for the remainder of the term of the existing Agreement.” The court has set a Feb. 10 date for the defendants to file a reply. TDN asked a NYRA spokesperson if the racing association or NYRA Bets wished to comment prior to that filing, and also asked how the termination of TGPS might affect horseplayers who use the portal. “NYRA will honor the terms of confidentiality agreed to by the parties involved and reply to the court by Feb. 10. This contractual dispute does not and will not impact NYRA customers,” Patrick McKenna, NYRA’s vice president for communications, wrote in an email.

The “Termination for Convenience” letter that NYRA served Thoro-Graph is scheduled to become effective June 10. “That notice of termination has now been issued solely because Plaintiff made it clear it would proceed with legal efforts to protect its rights under the Agreements to receive its full share of compensation,”

Thoro-Graph’s complaint stated. “Plaintiff performed its obligations under [the contracted terms] by maintaining its website as ‘best in class and offering free and reduced priced Thoro-Graph data which has resulted in NYRA Bets signing up over 1,700 horseplayers. This was accomplished by Plaintiff without any marketing assistance from the NYRA Parties” the complaint stated. “In 2017, Plaintiff grew the handle of defendant NYRA Bets by $3.1 million,” Thoro-Graph’s court filing stated. “In 2018 Plaintiff’s contribution was $10.7 million; in 2019 the contribution went to $15.3 million; in 2020 the contribution was $22.7; in 2021 the contribution reached $24 million; [At the time the Dec. 19 lawsuit was filed] Plaintiff’s contribution [was] on track to reach $25 million making the total added handle over $100 million.”

Drilling the alleged non-payment issue down further, the complaint stated that NYRA’s deduction of an “import host fee” from the net revenue calculation is a chief bone of contention. The complaint put it this way: “To be clear, what defendant NYRA is claiming is an “import host fee” is simply money RECEIVED by NYRA Bets solely as a result of “Qualifying Wagers” by non-New York residents on NYRA CONTENT and then passed on to and RECEIVED BY DEFENDANT NYRA AS REVENUE.” Attorney Murphy, when reached by the TDN, said, As for now, we will let the complaint speak for itself. We will have more to say after NYRA’s response.

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