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Betting to Shut Down Earlier

Hollywood Park and other Churchill Downs-owned tracks will close wagering before horses enter gate.

November 09, 2002|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

Reacting to a public outcry that races other than this year's Breeders' Cup pick six might have been bet after they had already started, Hollywood Park and other Churchill Downs-owned tracks will begin shutting off betting before the horses are loaded into the starting gate.

Tom Meeker, president of Churchill Downs Inc., said Friday that an early lockup, of between 1 1/2 and two minutes, of all bets in the parimutuel system would begin Wednesday at Hollywood Park, Churchill Downs, Calder in Florida and Hoosier Park in Indiana. The new company-wide policy will cost the tracks an undetermined amount of mutuel handle at least in the beginning, because many bettors are habitual procrastinators.

Bettors also will not be able to make alternate bets if their horses are scratched in the gate. They will get refunds, but because of the early lockup, there will be no opportunity to hurriedly make an extra wager.

"I'm less concerned about the cost than [rebuilding] consumer confidence," Meeker said. "We should do this, regardless of the cost. This may turn out to be an adverse situation for some of the public, but I think that, by and large, it will be received positively. Horseplayers are very adaptable, and I think they will adapt to his very quickly."

Arlington Park, another of the Churchill Downs tracks, ended its season the day after last month's Breeders' Cup races, which were run on a day when one bettor, a Baltimore man, had a ticket containing all six winning payoffs on the pick six, each worth $428,352.

Since then, Derrick Davis has been unable to collect his payoff of more than $3 million -- including consolation payoffs for five winners -- because of an ongoing investigation that has resulted in the dismissal of Chris Harn, an Autotote Corp. employee who had the capability of tapping into the system and altering Davis' ticket after the first four races were run. Harn and Davis were college fraternity brothers.

Meeker said bets would close as the first horse was being loaded into the gate.

"The objective is to get the final odds posted on all horses by the time they leave the gate," he said. "I'm told that it takes 66 seconds to batch all the wagers from around the country on a race, so we're going to allow enough time to do this."

Last April at Hollywood, the odds on a winning horse dropped dramatically, from 9-2 to 2-5, while the race was being run. The explanation was that $118,000 in last-second bets, in large denominations, had come in from a betting hub in Maine. Only $11,461 had been in the win pool on the horse before the big bet.

Meeker also said Churchill Downs' tracks would no longer allow their races to be bet via hubs that lack the capacity to record off-track bets made by phone. Two New York off-track betting companies, in Nassau County and the Catskill region, don't record such bets. Davis used a Catskills phone account to place his bet on the Breeders' Cup pick six. In California, the telephone betting law requires bets be recorded and data stored for at least six months.

In another reaction to the Breeders' Cup pick six, the new Wagering Technology Working Group said that it is giving the country's tote companies 21 days to begin installing software that will scan all bets after each race of a multi-race wager.

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