‘Common pool’ betting key to future

Dec 13, 2005 2:49 AM

TUSCON, Arizona — "Globalization of common pool betting is essential for the continued growth of the racing industry," said Sean Pinsonneault, vice president of wagering operations for the Woodbine Entertainment Group.

The Canadian racing operator has been the leader in developing international common pool betting and opened the door to U.S. participation during the Arlington Park meeting last summer.

Pinsonneault was the moderator of a panel discussing international simulcasting at the 32nd annual Symposium on Racing & Gaming, held last week at the Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson. Appearing as panelists were: Andrew Harding, chief executive of the Australian Racing Board, John Stuart, director of simulcasting for Phymelela Gaming & Leisure Ltd. of South Africa, and Phil Adams, international development director of At The Races, the U.K.’s largest simulcasting provider.

The momentum, created by the demands of the wagering public, is toward common pool wagering. In addition to the U.S., Canada is simulcasting with South Africa, New Zealand and Australia and working on common pool betting.

Although Arlington provided the first opportunity for common pool betting in the U.S., Canada now has agreements with 12 states. They are: Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.

Soon to be added to the list, he said, are Florida, Arkansas and California.

What hindered the development of common pool betting with the U.S., he explained, were the previous tax structures. However, in October 2004, Congress passed an international tax bill that eliminated a 30% alien withholding tax, and that opened the door to Canadian participation.

But still a problem, he said, was the practice in some jurisdictions that permits ticket sellers to cancel tickets as much as 10 seconds into a race. He said efforts are underway to eliminate the canceling privilege.

Harding outlined the various jurisdictions and the means used to simulcast racing throughout the country. He noted that simulcasting began in 1985 when Australian billionaire and world-class gambler Kerry Packer formed the first company to provide the service. TABCOR now is the country’s largest simulcast operator.

Stuart focused on the importance of simulcasting to South African racing with outlets going to England, France, Germany, Italy, and the eastern European nations.

Harding emphasized the importance of horse racing in countries around the world where wagering amounts can be huge, as in Japan where 22 billion dollars are bet on horse racing annually. Developing simulcasting operations and common pool betting with such outlets are important to the development of the industry, he said.

The emphasis on horserace wagering through international sources contrasted with speakers during the past decade who felt that the future of horse racing depended on the track’s ability to become a racino with the installation of slot machines.

Yet, at the current symposium, Lorne Weil, chairman and CEO of Scientific Games Corp., suggested in his keynote speech that tracks should be looking to expand their products and increase their content menu with the addition of sports wagering (see accompanying story).

And, Greg Avioli, executive vice president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), strongly supported U.S. approval of Internet wagering because for horse racing "it’s our fastest form of revenue growth."