10/22/2009 12:00AM

Betfair customers to wager in U.S. pools for Cup


The British betting-exchange company Betfair will compensate the Breeders' Cup for allowing Betfair customers to wager against each other on the 14 Breeders' Cup races next month and will also allow them to wager directly into the events' commingled pools, officials said Thursday.

The agreement is the first between the Breeders' Cup and Betfair, which dominates the international online betting-exchange marketplace. In previous years, Betfair customers offered their own odds and took bets on the Breeders' Cup races without Betfair compensating the Breeders' Cup.

Officials declined to provide financial details other than to say the agreement is a one-year deal.

As part of the agreement, video of the Breeders' Cup races will be streamed live on the Betfair website, and customers will be able to wager into all commingled pools, including exotic bets like the pick six.

Ken Kirchner, the simulcast consultant for Breeders' Cup, said that the organization believed it was important to reach a deal with Betfair as a way of getting its product in front of Betfair's 2.5 million customers. He acknowledged that Betfair's customers would have probably offered odds and taken bets on Breeders' Cup races this year with or without a deal.

"Ultimately this is the way racing is going to get a larger share of the global gaming marketplace, by being able to offer bettors a shot at the biggest pools in U.S. racing," Kirchner said. "I know everyone is focusing on the betting-exchange side of this deal, but we see it much more as a deal for commingling."

For several years, many U.S. racetracks have complained that Betfair does not compensate the U.S. racing industry for giving Betfair customers the ability to wager on U.S. races. However, earlier this year, Betfair reached agreements with several U.S. racetracks, including Del Mar, to compensate the tracks for allowing Betfair customers to wager on the tracks' races.

Betfair officials did not responded to an e-mailed list of questions by Thursday afternoon.

In Britain, Betfair pays the racing industry 10 percent of its gross profit on horse race wagering as compensation. Kirchner declined to provide details on how the Breeders' Cup would be compensated, and he declined to say whether the Breeders' Cup would get a percentage of the revenue or a flat fee.

Earlier this year, Betfair bought Television Games Network, the largest account-wagering company in the U.S., for $50 million. The transaction was widely viewed as a way for the company to get a foothold into the United States in case laws that prohibit betting exchanges were relaxed. It has also used TVG to improve its relationships with U.S. tracks.

Two weeks ago, Betfair launched a service that allows its customers to wager into the commingled pools for a handful of North American tracks, including Oak Tree at Santa Anita, where this year's Breeders' Cup will be held. On Thursday, the Betfair site was offering its customers commingled betting on races from Hawthorne, Keeneland, Oak Tree, and Woodbine.