08/23/2006 12:00AM

New software stops late odds changes


A racing industry consortium has developed new software to process wagers that, when implemented, will eliminate late odds changes, the groups announced Wednesday.

The software has been under development for several years and was designed to overhaul the racing industry's current practices for processing wagers. The group that led the project and owns the software, which is called Wagering Transmission Protocol, includes Churchill Downs Inc., Magna Entertainment Corp., the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the New York Racing Association, The Jockey Club, Thoroughbred Racing Associations, and Woodbine Entertainment Group.

Though the project was not designed specifically to address late odds changes - which have been a source of complaint from horseplayers for years - a consequence of the redesign will be to eliminate flaws in the wagering network that allow for large amounts of uncounted bets to flow into the pools after the race has started.

According to Chris Scherf, the executive vice president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, which is owned by racetracks, the new software will stop late odds changes "absolutely. Under this system, every bet will be an ontrack bet, calculated instantly."

The software is not complete, racing officials involved in the project said, and was released on Wednesday so that programmers at bet-processing companies, racetracks, and racing associations could review the computer code to recommend improvements or point out errors. Once the software is complete, bet-processing companies will need to adopt the software, and racetracks will need to make improvements to communications and computer hardware to allow the software to work

"There's no timetable, per se, for when this will be completely ready," Scherf said.

The new protocol will send each bet made at any simulcasting location directly into the host track's pools, where it will be verified. Under the current system, bets are verified at the simulcasting location, and then, in many cases, sent to a regional hub, which stores bets from dozens and sometimes hundreds of locations and then sends the total amount of wagers to the host track at scheduled intervals, usually every 30 seconds. Such a large amount of wagers entering the pools at one time can often have dramatic impacts on odds calculations.

According to racing officials, the new protocols will also allow racetracks to monitor better betting pools for fraud or suspicious wagers.

The racing industry began exploring an overhaul of the bet-processing network in the wake of the 2002 Breeders' Cup pick six scandal, in which an employee of a bet-processing company manipulated a wager on the pick six.