12/17/2009 12:00AM

TRPB seeks extra safeguard to close betting pools


The Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, an investigative arm of the racing industry owned by racetracks, plans to develop a mechanism to ensure that betting closes prior to a race starting, the organization announced on Thursday.

The mechanism would act as an additional safeguard to existing policies and protocols that close betting pools at the start of the race, said TRPB president Frank Fabian. The board of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, which owns the TRPB, voted on Thursday to endorse the concept and provide funding to fully develop and implement the mechanism, according to the organization.

A further safeguard against pools remaining open after the start of a race would allow the racing industry to address serious concerns of many gamblers who have been critical of the bet-processing network over the past several years. Although many racing officials contend that the failures are extremely rare, any failure is typically portrayed by critics as being representative of a network that has glaring security gaps.

The stop-betting command is typically issued by a steward who pushes a button at the moment the gates open for the race, an action that transmits an electronic signal throughout the nationwide simulcast network. Occasionally, a communications failure between two sites in the network can result in the pools staying open for the race as it is being run at the sites affected by the failure.

The latest failures occurred in June this year, when the stop-betting command failed for two races run at Penn National within two weeks of each other. In May, another failure affected a race run at Hollywood Park. There was also a report that a race at Golden Gate Fields on Sept. 26 did not close in time, but the track's bet-processing company disputed the report.

The stop-betting project, when implemented, will also allow tracks to transmit and post win odds in decimals, such as 2.50-1, instead of 5-2, according to the TRPB. Display of decimal odds would provide bettors with a more precise measure of the potential payout on a horse, and it would lead to reductions in the sweep of any late-odds changes.

For example, under the current odds system, a horse that is just barely 5-2 will be displayed at 2-1 if late money forces the odds even one cent lower than 5-2, due to longstanding custom and practice in the racing industry. With decimal pricing, late money that forces a horse's odds to drop just below 2.50-1 would be displayed as 2.40-1, a 2.5 percent drop, instead of the 20 percent drop displayed through fractional odds.

"Those are some of the exciting things we will be able to do when we've got this system in place," said Fabian.

The project could also reduce the pressure on some racetracks to adopt practices designed to curtail problems with bet-processing failures that could affect the tracks negatively from a financial standpoint, such as closing the pools at zero minutes to post. That specific recommendation was taken up by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in November, but the issue was tabled after racetracks raised concerns that the policy would drive simulcast bettors away from wagering on Kentucky tracks in favor of other tracks that did not have the policy in place.