Canadian Regulations Spark Ire of Racetracks

Racing associations are scheduled to meet with the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency in Ottawa, Ontario, Nov. 15, to discuss a CPMA directive that has led to the suspension of pick six, pick four, and superfecta wagering until further notice.

The CPMA issued the directive in response to the investigation into the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick 6. The probe has produced criminal charges in the United States and triggered a thorough examination of tote systems.

Woodbine Entertainment held a Nov. 14 teleconference to address the situation and what company chief executive officer David Willmot called "exaggerated and irresponsible" reports in Ontario newspapers. He said Woodbine Entertainment wanted to clear up "misinformation" and "misrepresentation" for the benefit of the betting public.

The CPMA took its action without consulting with the racetracks. A similar situation developed Nov. 12 in Illinois, where the Illinois Racing Board halted wagering on bets involving more than three races without input from racetrack executives. Regulators have said they have concerns with the integrity of wagering pools and tote systems.

Willmot said it would have been prudent to wait for the recommendations of a working group formed by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup. U.S. bettors can wager into Canadian pools, but Canada can only offer separate-pool wagering on U.S. races.

"Whatever is done should be standardized between the United States and Canada," Willmot said. "There was shooting first and asking of questions later in Canada."

Ron Nichols, director of operations programs and national standards for the CPMA told the Toronto Star that there are "hubs retaining betting information and knowing the results of the race before they send their money. I don't think customers want to bet a win four when they know there's someone out there who has two winners and hasn't sent in their bets yet."

The CPMA wants racing associations to prove that all wagers on each entry are registered before the first horse crosses the finish line, the Star reported.

Willmot suggested the matter has gotten out of hand. He said Woodbine Entertainment supports CPMA supervision of the pari-mutuel system, but that the latest action, and resulting claims that tote systems have "tremendous holes," are extreme.

Willmot said the Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick 6 probe concerns an "inside job," not computer hackers. "That's outrageous," he said. "What we're talking about has nothing to do with hackers. (It was suggested) three guys with a laptop hacked into the system and manipulated bets. Nothing could be further from the truth."

In regard to the CPMA directive, officials said the timing is too tight for manipulation of a superfecta. Steve Mitchell, vice president of wagering operations for Woodbine Entertainment, said the ban would cost the company $100 million a year in handle if it remained in place.

Willmot said the CPMA directive would have "catastrophic consequences" for the racing and breeding industries in Canada. He also said he trusts in the wagering system.

"We have no reason to believe...that any Canadian wagering pools have been compromised by the manipulation of data," Willmot said.