10/08/2004 12:00AM

A break for foreign bettors


The House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday night that includes a provision that would allow racetracks in Canada and other foreign countries to begin commingling their wagers into U.S. pools, horse racing lobbyists said Friday.

The provision would repeal a 30 percent withholding tax on all wagers made into U.S. pools. The current tax prevents most foreign countries, including Canada, from sending their wagers into U.S. pools, because each wager would be subject to the tax no matter how large or small, or whether the bet was a winner or loser.

The bill, which was drafted to repeal subsidies for U.S. companies that the World Trade Organization has ruled are illegal, has been sent to the Senate. It is not expected to be acted on until Monday or Tuesday, according to Peggy Hendershot, a spokeswoman for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

Racing officials believe that the repeal of the tax could have far-reaching impact on racing by opening up American pools to bettors in foreign countries, where the NTRA has estimated $70 billion is bet annually on horse racing.