06/17/2005 12:00AM

Canada to bet in U.S. pools

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Canadian racetracks and regulators have worked out an agreement that will allow Canadian racing fans to begin betting into U.S. pools, officials of Canada's regulatory agency said Friday.

The agreement will require that Canadian customers be notified of the risks when betting into U.S. pools, based on the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency's belief that cancel-delay policies at some U.S. tracks could lead to odds manipulation, according to Ron Nichol, the director of coordination and program standards for the CPMA. The agency is drafting the notice, Nichol said.

"The notice is going to advise bettors of any risks related to the cancel delays of between three to 10 seconds," Nichol said. "We want to make sure that the fans know that there are possible risks inherent in the U.S. pools that are not inherent in the Canadian pools."

Cancel delays are prohibited under Canadian rules.

Bet cancel-delays are in place at a handful of U.S. racetracks, including those in California and New Jersey, despite pressure over the past several years for the practice to be eliminated. Cancel delays allow mutuel tellers to void a bet after a race has started, ostensibly to protect the tellers from bettors who do not pay for last-minute wagers.

Canadian racetracks have been eager to offer commingled betting on U.S. racetracks since legislation was passed last year striking down a mandatory 30 percent withholding tax on any foreign bet made on a U.S. racetrack.

Although the agreement is said to address the CPMA's concerns, betting into U.S. pools is not expected to be offered immediately, and could take several months to work out. A number of issues still need to be addressed, including complex logistics regarding conversion rates for currencies and the establishment of bet-processing protocols that allow totalizator systems in both countries to communicate with each other.

Canadian racetracks, regulators, and totalizator companies held a conference call Friday morning to discuss progress on the logistical problems, Nichol said.

"I really think we're down to the nitty gritty right now," Nichol said. He declined to offer an estimate as to when U.S. betting would be available.

Steve Mitchell, the vice president of wagering operations for Woodbine Entertainment, could not be reached for comment on Friday. Earlier this week, Mitchell said Woodbine was working on the bet-processing issues.

In a notice posted on Woodbine's website, Mitchell said that Canadian racetracks have received regulatory approvals in two states, Ohio and Illinois, for common-pool wagering, but that "progress is slow elsewhere in the U.S."

Mitchell also wrote that mandatory deductions in Canada in some pools will force Woodbine to use a 25 percent total takeout on superexotic wagers such as the pick six, even if takeout on those bets is lower in the United States.