05/19/2005 11:00PM

Petition urging start to U.S. pool access


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Ever since the United States passed legislation allowing foreign racing fans to bet directly into U.S. parimutuel pools, fans at Hastings have been champing at the bit to bet into those significantly larger pools.

The way it works now is that Canadians bet on races in the States, but they are betting into a separate, much smaller Canada-wide pool. Also, when a track like Hollywood Park offers a guaranteed $1 million pool, Canadians can not take part.

Hastings and other Canadian tracks have been working with the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency for the past six month to bring U.S. common-pool wagering to Canada. The parimutuel agency, however, has yet to settle on an acceptable system.

According to Susan McCulloch, regional manager for the agency, the two biggest stumbling blocks are so-called cancel-delay rules in certain jurisdictions governing how bettors can cancel a wager, and different rules surrounding a scratched favorite in multiple-race wagers in each state.

"Some states have a 10-second cancel-delay rule, and on a short race with a bad break, someone could cancel their ticket or manipulate the odds," she said. "Plus we get a lot of complaints about late changes in the odds, and none of the data is relayed until after the 10 seconds has elapsed."

Citing frustration with the parimutuel agency, Hastings has circulated a petition requesting that the agency change its regulations.

"We feel that the CPMA has stuck to their principles without adequate consultation with the people they're supposed to represent," said Chuck Keeling, vice president of the racecourse division of Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, the operators of Hastings. "So we're going to have the people they purport to represent make their feelings known."

Basically the petition says that a host track's rules provide adequate regulation for the customer's protection.

"Billions of dollars parimutuelly change hands every year in the United States," said Keeling. "Not allowing the Canadian public to bet into those pools is insulting.

"In the U.S. you have different rules in different states, but they still allow common-pooling with the host track's rules applying. We think our fans are sophisticated enough to know what the different rules between states are and that they should be allowed to bet directly into the U.S. pools. We're also happy to post the rules for each track we're wagering into."

Owner, trainer, and serious handicapper Richard Yates strongly supports the petition.

"I like to bet the pick six when there's a large carryover or guaranteed pool," he said. "Right now I have to drive to the States, and it would be nice to do it at home."

He also feels very safe betting into U.S. pools and feels that bet-processing security had been greatly tightened since the Breeders' Cup pick six scandal of 2002.

"The events in the Breeders' Cup two years ago were essentially the 9/11 of parimutuel wagering," he said. "Since then, the regulators down there have done everything possible, including bringing in Rudy Giuliani" - former mayor of New York City and head of the Giuliani Partners consulting firm - "to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"To say that it isn't safe to bet into their pools is the same goofiness that U.S. drug regulators use when evaluating the safety of Canadian pharmaceuticals."

Simulcast patrons polled at Hastings on Thursday all supported the petition. One person, who wanted to remain anonymous, said, "If I want to bet a couple of thousand dollars on a horse at Bay Meadows, I just call my bookmaker. If you want to make a serious wager, the Canadian pools are just too small to bet into. How much is that costing the track every year?"

Notis Otis pulling through ordeal

Notis Otis, who came close to dying last week, is on the road to recovery. According to his usual rider, Chris Loseth, Notis Otis was sent home after a successful emergency blood transfusion to combat a virus he picked up following his trip to Stampede Park, where he went unplaced in the President's Stakes on May 7.

According to Loseth, Dr. Ed Wiebe, the attending veterinarian, said: "He must have a huge heart because his blood was as thick as syrup, and usually a horse will have a heart attack when they try to pump blood when it becomes that thick. Right now he appears to be doing well."

Loseth, who is married to Tracy McCarthy, the trainer of Notis Otis, also said that the horse, last year's local 2-year-old champ, would be given "at least a month of rest before they even think of putting the tack back on him."

Lease deal grows closer

Great Canadian Gaming Corporation and the City of Vancouver have moved closer to signing a new lease agreement. Great Canadian leases Hastings from the city, and before it was willing to invest the $40 or $50 million needed to upgrade the facility for installation of slots, it wanted a long-term lease from the city.

"We've made good progress on finalizing an agreement," said Brent Macgregor, deputy city manager of Vancouver. "The main business terms have been agreed to, and we're in the process of drafting an agreement."