04/16/2003 11:00PM

Youbet mishap irks customers


Youbet.com has upset some of its customers after deducting winnings from their accounts from last Saturday's Wood Memorial more than 12 hours after the race had already been run.

Youbet, one of the most popular account-wagering operations in the United States, made the deductions on trifecta bets on the Wood after Youbet discovered that information about the bets failed to be transmitted from Youbet's hub in Oregon to Aqueduct racetrack in New York, where the Wood was held. The transmission failure did not come to light until long after winnings from the race were credited to customers' accounts.

Both winning and losing trifecta bets were refunded, according to an e-mail Youbet sent to its customers about the deductions. The Wood trifecta paid $83.50.

The deductions have enraged the customers of Youbet who were affected. One customer, who spoke on the condition that his name not be used, said that he woke up Sunday to find a negative balance in his account after several winning trifecta wagers were deducted. The customer said he had bet the winnings after the money was credited to his account following the Wood.

Youbet officials did not return phone calls Thursday requesting comment.

In Youbet's e-mail, Michael Veitch, the company's chief marketing officer, said that Youbet.com's "operating plan, as approved by the Oregon Racing Commission, states that all wagers that fail to merge with the wagering pools of the host track must be refunded."

The transmission failure also impacted Television Games Network, an account-wagering operation that has a partnership agreement with Youbet and uses the same Oregon hub. TVG honored the winning bets and refunded the losing bets, according to Doug Ramsey, TVG's chief operating officer.

TVG officials said that their normal policy is to refund any wagers that are not commingled. However, since their system told customers that the bets had been accepted, TVG decided to honor the winning bets.

Typically when a transmission failure occurs, off-track sites affected by the failure pay winners according to the odds posted by the racetrack, according to Pat Mahony, Aqueduct's vice president of parimutuel operations.

When transmission failures occur, the exact size of the parimutuel pool cannot be determined because all the information about the bets that have been made is not available. That often leads to discrepancies between what the payoff should have been if the excluded money was in the pool and the payoff that is posted.

Most sites and racetracks have provisions in their contracts with their totalizator providers that determines who is liable for any losses due to transmission failures. Typically, the tote company is liable for any money that a site loses because of payoffs on booked odds if the failure was the tote company's fault, according to racing officials.

The totalizator provider for TVG and Youbet is AmTote. John Corckran, the president of AmTote, said on Thursday that he had not had any discussions with either TVG or Youbet about compensation or the transmission failure.