02/19/2002 12:00AM

Magna faces phone beefs


Officials of Frank Stronach's Magna Entertainment plan to address complaints about its XpressBet online wagering system at a Thursday meeting of the California Horse Racing Board, a Magna official said Tuesday.

The complaints include frequent system crashes, the inability of users to place bets through live tellers, and the shutdown of the system before some tracks' last races at night. Ed Hannah, a Magna legal counsel, said that the company had received complaints from CHRB personnel and from subscribers.

"We've been very well apprised of where people are encountering difficulties, and we're working assiduously to address those areas," Hannah said.

XpressBet was launched on Jan. 25, one day after the service was licensed by the CHRB.

Hannah also said that Magna plans on Thursday to withdraw a California phone-betting license application by one of its subsidiaries, Call-A-Bet, an established operation in Pennsylvania.

Hannah said Magna had anticipated accepting wagers through call-a-bet from subscribers who favor live tellers. XpressBet accepts bets only online and via touch-tone telephone service.

Hannah said Magna did not plan to add live betting to XpressBet.

"It's under consideration, but we have not made a decision to put it into place," Hannah said. "The labor costs are quite high, and the margins are already very thin."

Mike Marten, a CHRB spokesman, said the main complaints he has forwarded to CHRB officials are that the site frequently crashes and that it does not allow players to place multiple wagers at one time.

"There are a great number of glitches," said Marten. "But there's a learning curve on the part of Magna here. It seems these things will work out. How can they not work out? There is a lot of money there."