03/28/2006 12:00AM

Rebate program approved for NYRA and Capital OTB

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The New York State Racing and Wagering Board at a meeting on Tuesday approved proposals by the New York Racing Association and Capital Off-Track Betting Corporation to award rebates to their customers.

The vote Tuesday ended a yearlong lobbying campaign by NYRA to get approval for the program, which will reward bettors with rebates based on their monthly level of handle. NYRA first approached the racing and wagering board last year about getting a program approved, but progress had been slow because of objections by some offtrack betting companies to the programs.

According to documents provided by the racing and wagering board, the NYRA and Capital programs are nearly identical.

In both programs, bettors earn 1 point for a dollar wagered on NYRA races and a half-point for every dollar wagered on any other race.

Also in both programs, rebates will start at 1 percent of handle for bettors who have accumulated at least 2,000 points in one month, and top out at 7 percent on high-takeout bets such as the trifecta and pick six for a player who accumulates 500,000 points or more in a month.

Bill Nader, NYRA's senior vice president, said that NYRA plans to launch the rebate program on May 3, the opening day of the Belmont Park meet. NYRA also plans to expand its simulcast menu on that day and will extend the hours of operations for its account-wagering telephone center, Nader said.

All current customers of NYRA's account-wagering operation, NYRA One, would be automatically enrolled in the program, which will be called NYRA Rewards, Nader said. Any bettor will be eligible to enroll in the program, but all bets must be made through NYRA's account-wagering operation or through a self-service terminal in order to qualify, Nader said.

"This is going to be a very customer-friendly, well thought-out program that is going to bring us up to date in the competitive market," Nader said.

Rebates are controversial in some quarters of the industry because of concerns that the awards give some bettors an advantage over other players by reducing the cost of wagers. More and more, however, racetracks are adopting some form of rebate program to stem the flow of bets from domestic racetrack companies to offshore sites and account-wagering operations.

"We view this as no different than an airline, a hotel, or a restaurant that is trying to stay competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace," Nader said.

Nader said that NYRA hoped to attract bettors who are concerned about the low return to the racing industry generated by many rebate shops, which typically return 5 or 6 percent of every wager to racetracks and horsemen in the form of simulcast fees. Those low rates, however, also allow rebate shops to award rebates that can reach as high as 15 percent on high-takeout wagers, more than double the rate that NYRA is promising.

"It's the best payback to the industry for all stakeholders, especially horsemen," Nader said. "They'll know that they will be betting through a platform that gives the most back to the racing industry, and that should be worth something."

The programs at NYRA and Capital will each have eight tiers of rebates. The NYRA tiers have been set at monthly totals of 2,000 points, 5,000 points, 10,000 points, 25,000 points, 50,000 points, 100,000 points, 250,000 points, and 500,000 points. A person accumulating 500,000 points or more will receive 3 percent back on all win, place, and show wagers; 4 percent on all two-horse bets, such as exactas and daily doubles; and 7 percent on bets involving three or more horses.

The Capital program has slightly different tiers and rebate rates, but both programs begin at 2,000 points a month with a 1 percent rebate on all wagers and top out at the same rate.