10/12/2009 11:00PM

Betfair will offer U.S. pools overseas


Betfair, the British betting exchange company that owns Television Games Network, will begin offering its overseas customers the ability to wager into commingled pools in the United States later this month, the company said on Tuesday.

Betfair customers can currently bet into the commingled pools in the United Kingdom that are offered by the Tote, the government-owned entity that offers parimutuel betting on races in competition with traditional bookmakers. Wagering on Betfair is dominated by exchange betting, which allows individual customers to offer prices on horses and take bets based on those prices.

Kyle Fratini, a spokesman for the company, said that Betfair currently has contracts that will allow the company's customers to place commingled wagers on races from Oak Tree at Santa Anita, Woodbine, Hawthorne, Suffolk Downs, Beulah Park, Finger Lakes, and Fort Erie. Bet processing will be handled by Scientific Games Racing, and customers of Betfair will be able to review race and pool data provided by the company.

"As the company gets up and running, we will look to partner with many additional U.S. tracks," Fratini said.

Betfair has become the most closely watched gambling company in the world because of the international success of its betting exchange model. The company purchased TVG earlier this year in order to get a foothold in what could be an enormous market for exchange betting if laws are changed to allow the practice.

Residents of Great Britain have been allowed to wager into U.S. commingled pools for several years, but the practice has not been widely embraced, despite U.S. racing signals being typically available during prime-time hours in Britain.

Chris Scherf, the executive vice president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, a racetrack trade group, said that Betfair customers may be drawn to the ability to make exotic wagers such as exactas and trifectas on U.S. races, but he expressed doubts that commingled handle through Betfair would add up to a significant amount.

"I don't see those players going away from the betting exchange model for what we offer," Scherf said.