09/28/2003 11:00PM

Bet security again the focus


BURLINGAME, Calif. - Simulcasting officials from across the country are gathering in northern California this week to discuss how to make their betting outlets and wagering networks comply with the likely security recommendations of an industry task force analyzing last year's Breeders' Cup pick six scandal.

More than 300 racing officials are registered for this year's Simulcast Conference, an annual event organized by the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, a racetrack trade group. The conference typically addresses the problems racing officials face in the increasingly complex world of simulcasting. But this year, the conference has taken on new urgency because of the fallout from the pick six scheme, masterminded by a former totalizator company employee who used his access to the wagering network to modify bets after they had been placed.

In August, a task force set up by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association released a report that offered broad recommendations about how to improve security of the betting network. The task force, in consultation with two consulting groups, Giuliani Partners and Ernst and Young, is currently developing more detailed recommendations.

Greg Avioli, the deputy commissioner of the NTRA, was scheduled to address the conference late Monday afternoon as part of the opening panel. Scheduled to speak with Avioli on the task force's recommendations were Tony DeMarco, the service bureau director of the TRA; Paul Berube, the president of the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau, a racetrack investigative association; and Lonny Powell, the president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

Apart from the security issues, the simulcasting conference was also expected to focus tightly on the development of new technologies for wagering. Many industry officials expect emerging technology - especially devices that can be used to transmit bets wirelessly - to have a profound impact on how wagering is conducted in the future. On Tuesday, an entire panel is being devoted to wireless applications.

Simulcasting has become the dominant revenue source for every racetrack in North America. In a recent report, the Jockey Club estimated that 86 percent of all bets are placed at sites other than the live racetrack. Ten years ago, simulcasting revenues hardly registered in the industry.

The rapid growth of account wagering over the past five years is now complicating the racing landscape at nearly the same rate. Accordingly, speakers at the simulcasting conference are also scheduled to address the difficulties in accounting for the bets and several associated problems, including the concern that signals offered through account-wagering sites are being pirated by unlicensed outlets.