Ohio Telephone and Account Betting (TAB) Ltd., an organization owned by three Ohio tracks--Scioto Downs, River Downs and Beulah Park--announced this week that it will go live with a pari-mutuel race wagering website August 28.
The legal hiccups facing Internet betting in the United States make it particularly intriguing that the group has is stepping into the forefront of the issue at this time. The fate of online gambling in America lies in the hands of the U.S. House at the moment, and it's unclear how pari-mutuel wagering services will be affected.
The Ohio TAB is not the first group in Ohio to consider an online wagering venture. Late last year, the Ohio Lottery Profit Review Commission included Internet ticket sales in their list of possible improvements that could boost slumping lottery sales. The LPRC was cautious in its approach, leaving the final decision for state legislators to debate.
Ohio TAB General Manager Todd Bowker says Winticket is on steady legal grounds. "We've gotten complete approval from the Ohio Racing Commission," he affirmed.
Whether Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery is equally comfortable with an Internet betting site being run from Ohio is less clear. Press officials for Montgomery's office told IGN that they were unaware of the new site and indicated that they planned to confer with Montgomery about it.
Nonetheless, Ohio TAB is plugging forward. "It's the wave of the future and the present, really," explained Bowker.
Although the legal situation is sketchy, the new site has been built on a firm foundation. Account wagering has been around in Ohio since 1994, and Ohio TAB already lists around 5,000 account holders. Bowker says the group is hoping the online service will expand that number dramatically and that it will dovetail nicley into the company's focus to be as customer-friendly as possible.
Customers will be able to quickly and easily open an account over the Internet or by telephone. Money will be deposited using credit cards, checks or cash. Customers will also be able to deposit money into their accounts at any of Ohio TAB's partner tracks. "We're trying to make this as easy as possible,"
Bets will be accepted from U.S. states that allow punters to participate. Wagers from outside the U.S. won't be accepted. To assure that participants are betting from authorized jurisdictions, according to Bowker, all payments will be sent in the form of checks via snail mail.
The site's homepage is already online, although other parts of the site aren't available yet. Bowker says that the software has been approved by the Ohio Racing Commission. At this time, simulcasting isn't available, although the group is exploring the option.
Ohio TAB offers betting on thoroughbred and harness racing from roughly 50 racetracks in the United States and other countries.