On Track - January

22 January 2003
Co-mingling of Wagers a Reality

Officials with U.S. Off-track and Euro off-track.com announced an agreement this week that will result in the co-mingling of wagers on international races.

The two companies are teaming up to link the broadcasting of a new wagering service in the United States with greyhound racing in Ireland.

As part of the deal, racing action from Dublin's Shelbourne Park and Harold's Cross will be carried in a host of U.S. tracks and OTB parlors.

Vincent Caldwell, Director of Euro off-track.com, explained how the system will work.

"Now on a daily basis we broadcast Irish greyhound pictures to North America, where punters can use the existing U.S. infrastructure to wager on," he said. "We are providing services to Tucson, Seabrook, Naples, Raynham, Lakes Region, Wonderland, Tampa Greyhound, Derby Lane, Racing Services, Racing Channel, US off-track and Artax Gaming."

Hong Kong Jockey Club Leery of Betting Exchanges

Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, director of racing for the Hong Kong Jockey Club, spoke out recently against betting exchanges, two of which have recently established operations targeting the Hong Kong market.

"For me, this is the biggest threat to racing's integrity, and it is a worldwide threat," he told the South China Morning Post. "I admire the idea of the exchange--it is very clever--and I don't question the integrity of the people running the site. In fact, I can see that the idea may have some merit on sports, where integrity is not a central issue."

Engelbrecht-Bresges added, however, that the exchanges don't have a place in racing.

"Their growth in relation to horse racing is very negative and will place racing control in an impossible position," he said. "Every jurisdiction in the world should work with government to ban this."

Betfair recently entered the Hong Kong racing market, and it already has accepted wagers on U.S.- and U.K.-based horse racing. Another exchange, Spinbet, is set to begin operations.

British Horseracing Board Appoints Racing Director

Ruth Quinn, a key member of the British Horseracing Board's racing department since the board's inception in 1993, has been named the board's new racing director.

Quinn, 34, is currently BHB's controller of programs and head of the racing department. She will succeed Trevor Beaumont when he leaves at the end of January.

Quinn has fulfilled specialist Flat and National Hunt race planning roles and has been instrumental in implementing many major BHB initiatives over the last 10 years. She will continue to be a member of the Race Planning Committee, the Flat and National Hunt Pattern Panels and the European Pattern Committee.

Reporting to chief executive Greg Nichols, she will be responsible for all aspects of the day-to-day running of racing, overseeing the racing department and the team of handicappers headed by Nigel Gray. She will also continue to help further develop the constructive relationships, which already exist with other racing authorities internationally.

Britian's Reform of Gambling Laws Could Hit Snags

Plans to reform Britain's gambling laws could be delayed by two years because of opposition from within the industry and Westminster.

Separation of the Tote sale and the Levy Board closure from wide-ranging reforms to the laws on gambling, which could see changes and create the formation of a gambling commission, have all been discussed.

Last week's resolution by the all-party racing committee, urging swift action on the Tote's hand-over to a racing trust, was a reflection that insiders at Westminster believe the odds are lengthening against the government being able to wrap up everything in a single bill.

A report in The Business newspaper on Sunday voiced growing concerns about the gambling law timetable, saying, "The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will now propose two separate pieces of legislation, which will delay gambling reform for two years."

Uncontroversial changes that do not require primary legislation will continue to be advanced, and officials at the DCMS, who are drafting the legislation, have not yet formally given up hope of dealing with the statutory changes to the Tote, Levy Board and gambling in general in one fell swoop.

Magna expands betting services

Magna Entertainment this month launched HorseRacing TV, a 24-hour cable television network that will provide coverage of 13 race tracks owned, operated or managed by the company, as well as programming from 60 other tracks.

XpressBet, Magna's account wagering system, will support the network by providing betting opportunities--where legal--on each of the live races Magna broadcasts on HRTV.

"It's always been part of MEC's strategy to support the growth of our racing and wagering operations with the broadest possible television distribution of live horse racing,'' Magna president Jim McAlpine said in a news release. "HorseRacing TV provides exclusive television coverage to some of the best racing in North America.''

Among racetracks under Magna's control are Gulfstream Park in Florida, Santa Anita in California and Pimlico in Maryland. Pimlico is the home of the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of racing's Triple Crown.

NAB boss worried about new licensing deal

The National Association of Bookmakers leader John Stevenson has warned that a significant number of race course operators will disappear from the ring, leaving punters with a worse deal, if a licensing agreement imposed by the BHB goes ahead starting April 1.

The arrangement, which was mirrored last October by the Levy Board as part of the next levy scheme, means that instead of paying a fixed fee of £132 a year, on-course bookmakers will hand over 10 percent of their gross profits to racing for data rights claimed by the BHB for the list of runners, although they will be exempt from paying the charge for marker sheets.

NAB chairman Stevenson has estimated that the move will strip an on-course business of 30 percent of its net profits.

John McCririck for Channel 4 Racing at Lingfield echoed Stevenson's fears in a straw poll of back-line bookmakers.

None of the six layers canvassed was prepared to say he would give up betting, except possibly at minor midweek meetings, but all said their businesses would be greatly damaged.

Stevenson's warning comes as the Office of Fair Trading is considering a complaint against the BHB scheme by the Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers, which comprises the NAB, Rails Bookmakers Association and Association of Racecourse Bookmakers.

They are claiming that the arrangement runs counter to the Competition Act 1998, and that the BHB is abusing its dominant position as the sole supplier of the information on runners.

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.