05/19/2005 11:00PM

Canadian fans urged to protest


Racetracks in Canada are urging racing fans to sign a petition calling on the country's regulatory agency to lift a prohibition on Canadian tracks wagering directly into U.S. commingled parimutuel pools.

The effort comes in the wake of a decision by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency to block betting into U.S. pools because of concerns over the practice of bet-cancel delays at some U.S. betting sites. The CPMA contends that the practice, which allows mutuel tellers to cancel bets several seconds after races have started, could lead to odds manipulation.

Racetracks in Canada had hoped to allow their bettors to wager into U.S. pools beginning this year following the passage of U.S. legislation late in 2004 that struck down a mandatory federal withholding tax on any bets made in foreign countries on U.S. races. Currently, Canadians bet into separate pools for U.S. races.

Woodbine Entertainment Group, which owns Woodbine Racecourse near Toronto, has criticized the CPMA's decision, calling it "unique" in Thoroughbred racing and arguing that Canadian bettors should have the ability to decide whether to wager into the U.S. pools. As of Friday afternoon, 1,092 Woodbine customers had signed a petition at the track asking the CPMA to reconsider its decision, according to the track's vice president of wagering operations, Sean Pinsonneault.

The CPMA says that it cannot allow bettors to wager on races from any racetracks that allow sites with a bet-cancel delay in place into their pools. Because of the widespread distribution of nearly every racing signal in the U.S., that eliminates virtually every Thoroughbred racetrack in the country. The CPMA also prohibits Canadian mutuel tellers from canceling any bets after a race has started.

"The CPMA and indeed the horse racing industry in Canada do not allow monies to be taken out of any pool after the start of the race," said a CPMA statement on its website, explaining the agency's rationale. "The CPMA believe there is potential for fraud in cases where this is allowed."

CPMA officials could not be reached for comment on Friday.

The elimination of bet-cancel delays has been a priority for many North American racetracks since the 2002 Breeders' Cup pick six scandal, which exposed many loopholes in the racing industry's bet-processing network. The Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America, a racetrack trade group, has since attempted to eliminate the bet-cancel delay, but racetracks in many locations, including all the tracks in California and New Jersey, still have four- to five-second delays in place.

Chris Scherf, the executive vice president of the TRA, said that many of the sites that still allow a cancel delay do so as a condition of collective bargaining agreements with unions representing mutuel tellers. The cancel delays ostensibly allow mutuel tellers to cancel tickets that are mistakes or that a gambler will not accept.