RCI: Autonomous Betting Monitor Critical

RCI is calling for support for an independent wagering monitoring system.

With RCI Integrity Services up and running, the Association of Racing Commissioners International has issued a strong call for the pari-mutuel industry to take advantage of something it believes is a no-brainer: an independent wagering monitoring system.

The call went out March 25 as RCI opened its annual convention in Austin, Texas, with more talk about problems that continue to plague pari-mutuel wagering, namely past-posting of bets and the cancellation of wagers after races have begun. Reports from industry officials painted a not-too-pretty picture.

It was noted that even electronic bingo games at churches are independently monitored. Pari-mutuel wagering is the only legal form of gambling that isn’t, officials have said.

Tom Casaregola, who handles audits and investigations for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, said the agency has looked at eight incidents involving past-posting—the placing of bets after “off” time of a race—in the past two years. They involved live races and simulcast races at off-track betting parlors.

In one incident in early 2007, wagering was open “not only for one race, but well into a second race,” Casaregola said. “The best part of it was there were still losing wagers. We have to remember satellite sites are just as important, because that’s where most of the money is coming from.”

Mike Maloney, the high-volume bettor from Lexington who last fall exposed an incident whereby wagering on a Fair Grounds race at Keeneland was available about 50 minutes into the race, said his research shows tracks don’t record when races begin. The only published record is the off time recorded in official racing charts, but that time is reported minute by minute, not second by second.

“None of you can get (the off time down to the second) because the data is not available,” Maloney said. “Tracks don’t record when the gates open. That this could happen this deep into the simulcasting age is just mind-boggling.

“Past-posting is the flavor of the month. I don’t want us to fix past-posting and lose sight of all the other wagering issues we have.”

Test caught cancel-delay

RCI Integrity Services, in conjunction with a system called MonitorPlus, performed a test in which it received live data from an unnamed state. Dennis Oelschlager, a former Nebraska regulator who now serves as a consultant for RCI Integrity Services, said a data set was created to look at the first three races on one program.

Cancellations of wagers didn’t occur on the first two races, but on the third race, there was a series of cancellations after the race went off, Oelschlager said, one at three seconds and another at five seconds. The tickets were purchased 3½ minutes before the race, and all 49 combinations of bets used the number seven horse.

The number seven horse failed to hit the board.

“I could not have created more of an abuse of the cancel-delay than is presented by this data,” Oelschlager said.

Paul Bowlinger, executive vice president of RCI who spearheads RCI Integrity Services, said poll data from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association shows the betting public is most concerned with late changes in odds. Yet, the industry spends more money pursuing a medication overage for drugs used therapeutically in racehorses than it does on real-time monitoring of pari-mutuel wagers.

“Shouldn’t this be taken as a warning shot through the forehead of this industry?” Bowlinger said of public opinion. “The industry has not been forthcoming to us. We hold out our hand and ask, ‘Please join us in this effort.’ Without the industry joining us, we have forged a system by ourselves. RCI Integrity Services is a not-for-profit that’s not getting a lot of support from the industry.”

There is talk of RCI enacting a model rule that would require tote companies to use an independent monitor and pass along some of the cost to the racetracks with which they contract. RCI officials said that route isn’t ideal, but thus far, negotiations haven’t been fruitful.

Unanimity hard to achieve

New York, meanwhile, is in the process of adopting regulations that require an independent monitor. Participation by a major pari-mutuel wagering state could lead others to follow suit, officials said.

“I can’t see this happening unless we step up to the plate and force this,” Bowlinger said. “It’s real, it’s done, it’s viable, and it’s necessary.”

Jeff True, president of United Tote, said track operators are being left out of the equation when it comes to discussions about real-time monitoring by an independent agency. True said he believes tote companies are being portrayed as bad guys.

“We’re ready, willing, and anxious to come to the table,” True said.

John Walzak, a former regulator who now serves as chief operations officer for the Ontario Harness Horse Association, called on racetracks to take action.

“The track operators are in charge,” Walzak said. “Why don’t we go after the people who are responsible? We don’t need to negotiate with tote companies.”

Thus far, Youbet.com, the account wagering company that owns United Tote, is the only client of RCI Integrity Services.

The racetracks, through the Thoroughbred Racing Associations and Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, are in the midst of what’s called the “Betting Analysis Project.” Curtis Linnell, analyst for the TRPB and Standardbred Investigative Services, said the project involves data from pools generated by the more than 40 TRA-member racetracks since September 2007.

Linnell said analysis of the data has revealed “patterns of suspicious activity” officials continue to monitor.

Linnell also said the TRA 20/20 Committee hopes to have procedures for “stop-betting” before a race begins in place by the end of 2008. Currently, the stewards push the button that stops wagering at off time.

In other updates, TRA president Bob Bork of Sam Houston Race Park said some tracks now cycle odds every 10 seconds instead of 30 seconds the last few minutes before post time, and it can be done uniformly if all tracks choose to do it. He also said the TRA, despite arguments from some quarters that wagering should close before a race begins, believes it would be a mistake to close pools before off time given the possibility of incidents in the gate.