Common Pools With Canada Gaining Momentum

Since common pool pari-mutuel wagering with Canada was introduced in the United States earlier this year, racetracks involved have seen significant gains in handle from Canada, according to Sean Pinsonneault, vice president of wagering operations for Woodbine Entertainment Group in Canada.

Pinsonneault joined a panel of representatives from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Australia Thursday in discussing international simulcasting issues at the annual Symposium on Racing and Gaming being held this week near Tucson.

Arlington Park in Illinois switched from separate pools to common pools during the middle of its meet this past summer and experienced a 21 % gain, good for an increase of $1.3 million, Pinsonneault said.

"Common pool wagering on a month-to-month basis has seen significant gains from July to November," he said. He reported a gain of $15.6 million, an increase of 42%.

Pinsonneault reported to date 12 states have approved common pool wagering with Canada -- Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia.

He said Florida, Arkansas, and California are next on the list for approval. Florida could open its doors to commingled pools with Canada by early January 2006, while Arkansas will introduce common pool wagering at its upcoming Oaklawn meet beginning Jan. 20. California could also offer common pools by early next year. In New Jersey, the matter is currently in the hands of the attorney general and legislative action may be required, Pinsonneault said.

Meadowlands is the only U.S. harness track in the United States that hasn't approved common pool wagering, and as a result has seen significant losses on its product, Pinsonneault said.

Under previous regulations, bettors in Canada were prohibited from wagering into U.S. pools. Congress passed an international tax bill in October 2004 that eliminated a 30% alien withholding tax, paving the way for Canadian tracks to bet directly into U.S. pools and increasing the potential for larger pools and higher payoffs.

Tracks must convert from gross-pool pricing, which is the standard used in the U.S., to net-pool pricing in order to have commingled pools. Net-pool pricing has been used in Canada since 1996.

"I think the common pooling aspect is very exciting for us," Pinsonneault said. "The globalization aspect I think is a great opportunity to be had here. It's not going to be easy for us. There are going to be changes that will be required. It's something we're all going to have to work hard for."