02/18/2005 1:00AM

Background checks for 11 simulcast sites


ARCADIA, Calif. - Eleven simulcast sites that take bets on races from Magna Entertainment Corp. racetracks have agreed to submit to background checks on their owners and customers. The investigations, which were requested by Magna, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, will be conducted by Giuliani Partners.

The simulcast sites - some of which offer rebates, racing officials say - will not be allowed to show or take bets on races from Magna-owned tracks if they fail to submit to the checks, which are being conducted to make sure there are no links to organized crime or money laundering and to "ensure the integrity of the [betting] pools," said Drew Couto, president of the TOC.

The investigations are expected to start in March and take 30 days, according to Couto. He said the information being sought is similar to what California residents must complete on applications for advance-deposit wagering systems - name, address, and some financial information, such as a Social Security number.

The background checks stem from a 2004 NTRA task force recommendation that racetracks learn more about their simulcast sites, specifically the sites' owners and customers.

"It's really just the first step in what you'll see, as a lot more measures come down the pike as to who is wagering into the pools," said NTRA executive vice president Greg Avioli.

Racetracks will not be provided with customer names, which will remain in possession of Giuliani Partners, the security consulting firm founded by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. According to Couto, Giuliani Partners will only notify the tracks if the services have customers who are "high-risk players."

According to Magna officials, the betting services involved in the inquiry are Racing and Gaming Services in St. Kitts; the Elite Turf Club and Holiday Beach Casino, both in Curacao; Tonkawa Indian Reservation in Oklahoma; Lien Games, an offtrack betting service in North Dakota and Iowa; Lakes Region Greyhound Park in New Hampshire; Bettor Racing in South Dakota; Coeur d'Alene Casino in Idaho; International All Sports and Capital Sports, both from Australia; and Euro Off-Track in the Isle of Man.

Earlier this year, Euro Off-Track, Tonkawa, and Elite Turf Club were named in a federal indictment released in New York that was related to an illegal gambling operation. None of the sites has been charged with a crime.

After the indictment was released, the New York Racing Association cut off 10 simulcast sites - including several of the same sites that agreed to submit to the Giuliani background checks - because of a lack of transparency in their business practices.

In January, Churchill Downs cut off bets from Tonkawa, Elite Turf Club, and Lakes Region Greyhound Park. Oaklawn Park cut off bets from Euro Off-Track and had stopped doing business with other known rebate betting services.