03/16/2004 1:00AM

Plan filed for foreign-race hub


An account-wagering company in the United States has applied to the Oregon Racing Commission to begin taking wagers on foreign races, drawing objections from domestic horsemen's groups and a major racing company.

AmericaTab, a collection of Internet-based account-wagering companies, filed the application last month with the Oregon Racing Commission, hoping to offer foreign racing to its U.S. customers. The application was tabled at the commission's last meeting but is scheduled for discussion March 25.

The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, along with several of its state affiliates, and Magna Entertainment Corp., the largest racetrack company in the United States, have filed objections to the application, saying AmericaTab has no plans to compensate foreign tracks or horsemen for the betting signals. The Thoroughbred Owners of California has also sent a letter to the commission objecting to AmericaTab's plan.

"It's just principle," said Remi Bellocq, executive director of the national HBPA. "There needs to be some kind of fair reward for horsemen and racetracks, no matter if the races are here or over there."

AmericaTab is one of the largest account-wagering companies in the United States In 2003, according to the Oregon commission, handle through the company's sites was $102 million, up 70 percent from 2002.

Charlie Ruma, president of AmericaTab, said that the foreign-betting operation would likely seek agreements with foreign racetracks and horsemen, at least initially. Ruma said, however, the hub would offer bets on foreign races regardless of whether the company had an agreement.

Of the groups who had objected to the project, Ruma said, "I don't see them being able to protect someone in Austria or Hong Kong. Quite frankly, it has nothing to do with the U.S. It puts no one in the U.S. in jeopardy."