Causes of Late Odds Changes Addressed at Symposium

The hot-button issue of changing odds after a race begins was addressed by Woodbine Entertainment's vice president of wagering operations Stephen Mitchell during a panel discussion on 'Integrity of Technology' during the 29th Symposium on Racing in Tucson Wednesday.

A recent study by Woodbine Entertainment of four Thoroughbred programs at Woodbine Race Course in November found the odds on the eventual winner dropped 27% of the time after the gates opened. The furthest into a race odds changed was 1:14 during the ninth race at Woodbine on November 23. However, in that instance, the winning favorites odds actually floated up from 3-to-5 to 4-to-5 despite being on the lead into the second turn.

Mitchell noted although a survey of Hollywood Park customers taken in the wake of the Breeders' Cup pick six scandal revealed 40% of people believed past-posting occurs, the Woodbine example "just confirms that past-posting is not the key issue" in odds changes during a race because the price should have dropped for the winning favorite if past posting occurred.

It was also found about 23% of races had odds changes take place more than 45 seconds after the gates opened and the average time for final odds to be displayed was 41 seconds into a race.

"We are under-serving our customers by having those delays out there," Mitchell said. "It's not surprising that they have these impressions [of past-posting], no matter how wrong those impressions might be."

Mitchell said several reasons prompt odds changes after the gates open. These include the transfer of win, place, and show pools from guest sites, teller cancel delays, television production software, and transfers from "double hop sites," which are guest sites that commingle pools from several sources and then transfer the pools to the host site.

"Double hop sites are clearly a leading cause," Mitchell said. "The interface software could be changed to get win, place, and show data first before getting all the data. If the tote companies feel it can be solved in that particular manner, than it is up to the host tracks to decide if they want to continue doing business with the double hop sites."

Mitchell also said part of the problem is it takes television productions up to 15 seconds after it receives the final wagering data to relay it to viewers.

Uniform standards to help alleviate late odds changes should be achieved no later than Dec. 31, 2003 in order to renew customer confidence, Mitchell concluded. This would partly be done by an industry-wide stop-betting time, which would allow for final odds to be displayed no more than 45 seconds after the gates open.

"We believe where we are lacking is we have not informed the public," Mitchell said. "We feel if they are armed with the information we have, customers would accept late odds changes. But certainly once you get past 45 seconds, which is about the half-mile point in a Thoroughbred race, then it begins to raise suspicion."