Kentucky Panel Plans Complete Pari-Mutuel Review

The Kentucky Racing Commission will begin a review of all policies and procedures related to pari-mutuel wagering, commission chairman Frank Shoop announced Dec. 4. The action stems from the recent Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick 6 investigation and the review being conducted by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

Shoop said all commissioners would participate in the endeavor, which calls for a look at rules and regulations, tote systems, simulcasting, off-shore wagering, vendor contracts, and even how uncashed pari-mutuel tickets are handled. Shoop said the racetracks in the state would be involved.

"We're requesting the full and prompt cooperation of everyone," Shoop said during the final regular commission meeting of the year.

Shoop, when asked after the meeting if the commission is looking into specific problem areas, said the review would be complete but is general in nature.

Commission vice chairman Frank Jones Jr. said the panel has a responsibility to review pari-mutuel procedures in light of recent developments.

"It's unfortunate that it happened, but it probably gives all of us the opportunity and responsibility to look into things," Jones said. "Cynical people have brought (up concerns of the pari-mutuel process) over the years."

Said commissioner Richard Stallings: "One thing that has discouraged me is it looked like racetracks just took the low bidder for whatever was put on the table."

Commissioner Richard Klein said bettors have complained for some time about drastic changes in odds after "off" time for races. Churchill Downs Inc. in mid-November began to close wagering at zero minutes to post time at most of its tracks to combat that problem.

"As far as the bettor goes, it has left a lot of bettors with a bad taste in their mouths," Klein said of the late changes in odds. "The most important thing is to remember the bettors have to come first."

Churchill Downs said it does not have information on how the change may have impacted its just-concluded fall meet, during which average daily handle took a hit. The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association is curious, however, since purses are tied to handle.

"We want to see what the downturn in business was, and how much we may have lost from it," said Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky HBPA. "Obviously, the bettors and the credibility of the industry are very important, but if doing this had a negative effect, we need to assess it."

In other business, Kentucky Quarter Horse Association continues to seek live racing dates in the state. Dave Loney of the Kentucky Quarter Horse Association said members of the organization plan to meet with Kentucky HBPA officials to discuss "unresolved issues."

The Kentucky HBPA expressed concerns the addition of live Quarter Horse racing at Thoroughbred tracks in the state could impact business. Turfway Park planned to run 14 Quarter Horse races in the fourth quarter of 2004, but that is up in the air at this point.

In October, the commission rejected a license application from Southern Bluegrass Racing, which wants to build a Quarter Horse track in southeast Kentucky near the Tennessee border.