07/04/2005 12:00AM

Commingling with U.S. pools starts

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Canadians were to be allowed to bet directly into a U.S. racetrack's host pool for the first time on Tuesday evening.

Woodbine announced last Saturday that Illinois and Ohio have approved commingled pools with Canada and that Balmoral, a Standardbred track in the Chicago area, will be the first to take bets from Canada.

Northfield, in Ohio, and Hawthorne, in Illinois, will follow Wednesday evening. Arlington is expected to be the first Thoroughbred racetrack to offer commingled pools, beginning later this month.

New York and Delaware are considering the issue, but regulators in some key racing states such as Florida, California, and New Jersey have said they need a number of months to amend their local regulations before accepting Canadian dollars, according to Woodbine's Steve Mitchell.

"Canadians will really benefit from this new system," said Mitchell, senior vice president and CFO of Woodbine Entertainment Group.

"Combining bets on both sides of the border into a single pool gives our customers larger pools and better payouts."

"Once all states permit this, payouts on winning bets should increase by more than $10 million per annum."

A graphic illustration of the benefits of commingling came in last Saturday's Ohio Derby. Woodbine-based Palladio, winner of the Ohio Derby for trainer Roger Attfield and jockey Richard Dos Ramos, returned $10.90 in the Woodbine pool and $18.20 at Thistledown.

The $2 exactor of Palladio and the favored Magna Graduate returned $20.70 in the Canadian pool but $72.40 at Thistledown. The $2 triactor here returned $648.10 but was worth $1,518.20 in Ohio.

Woodbine's total net pool on the Ohio Derby was $32,575. The corresponding total in the United States pools was $553,348.

Commingling became possible last fall when the United States eliminated its 30 percent withholding tax on any foreign bet made on a U.S. racetrack. Woodbine first had to work out an agreement with the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency before the process could be implemented.

The agency had been particularly concerned with the teller cancel-delay polices in some states, which it believes could lead to odds manipulation. Cancel delay, which gives a mutuel teller a few seconds to cancel a ticket after the gate has opened, is prohibited in Canada.

In mid-June, the agency agreed to let commingling proceed with the proviso that Canadian customers must be provided with posted notice of the risks where applicable.