Ban the BookiesOne month from now, racing will be in the media spotlight when the Breeders' Cup World Championships returns to Churchill Downs. In years past, among the hundreds of officially credentialed individuals roaming the backstretch of the host track were representatives of English bookmaking shops who establish betting lines on the Breeders' Cup races for their customers.Those bookmakers run perfectly legal operations in the United Kingdom and return a small portion of their overall betting turnover to the horse racing industry there. Many of them also take bets on racing in the United States through a network set up by Philadelphia Park.No day of American racing piques the interest of European bettors more than the Breeders' Cup, however, since a number of top horses from England, Ireland, and France compete annually. Yet the vast majority of the money handled by bookmakers on those races returns zero revenue to the Breeders' Cup.Why, then, does the Breeders' Cup permit those bookmakers to roam the grounds of the host track?
A Yen for GamblingBig racing days in Japan generate betting turnover several times the amount handled on a Breeders' Cup or Triple Crown race card. The influence of Japanese fans was witnessed at Longchamp Oct. 1, after thousands of them traveled to Paris and helped make their home-grown hero, Deep Impact, the prohibitive favorite for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Lucien Barriere (Fr-I).Imagine the interest Japanese fans would have on Breeders' Cup day if Japanese horses participated, and if those fans were able to wager on the races from their homes.That can't happen today because of a Japanese law that prohibits wagering on races run outside of Japan. That type of protectionism isn't fair to the Japanese racing fan and runs against the growing international spirit of the Japanese horse racing industry.