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When the Odds Change
After the Race Has Started - Part 2
by George Kaywood

October 9, 2001

There are two situations in which money bet at a simulcast location is not commingled with the money in the pools at the track where the live racing is being held.

The first is when the exchange of communications between the two is stopped or slowed down due to data line problems--not unlike the problems that still plague many Internet users with dial-up accounts where connections are just dropped for no apparent reason.

When this happens, the live racing track's pari-mutuel manager is supposed to institute a  clear and close procedure. This means that all the wagering information from a simulcast location is deleted from the pools of the live racing track, and the pools are closed.

And in the words of the California Horse Racing Board: "Although very infrequent, another 'clear and close' situation would be a dropped data link or other problem that caused a location to delay receiving the stop-betting signal. The pari-mutuel managers and state auditors are instantly aware of the problem and they deal with it effectively."

CHRB goes on to say that there are bottlenecks built into some systems outside California. One example is an unnamed Midwestern state which requires that all hubs in the state go through ONE primary hub before the wagering information is sent to California (or any other live racing track). What this means it that when the stop-betting command is received in that state, the pools are supposed to be closed at the individual hubs, which then send their information to the one primary hub. The primary hub does not send that collected information to the live racing track until its has all of the data from the secondary hubs.

What does this mean? It means that a large amount of last-minute money can be dumped into the betting pools of the live racing track, and cause the odds to change from a small amount to a fairly large amount!

CHRB says that players have suggested that the out-of-state tote systems be required to close the betting, say, a couple of minutes before post time, presumably so that all the wagering information from all simulcast tracks taking the live racing signal can be transmitted  to the live racing track, so that the odds you see before the horses leave the gate are indeed the odds that will will be paid after the race is over.

CHRB says this is not a good solution, because:

* It deprives out-of-state players of the opportunity to make last-minute wagers

* It deprives out-of-state bettors of the opportunity to cancel their tickets "when a horse acts up in the gate"

* Late scratches or other problems that delay the start of the race would compound the problem, as out-of-state players would remain locked out because of the earlier closing of betting.

In closing, the CHRB says in this article in the September, 2001, issue of  CHRB News & Review that the bottom line is that thanks to the stop-betting signal, all wagering is stopped at a precise time, or if there's a delay problem with the signal, wagers from simulcast locations are removed from the pools, so that in spite of the "processing delay time," no new wagers are accepted by the tote system.

Everything is, therefore, neat, and tidy and bettors need not be concerned about wildly changing odds after the race has started, or in extreme cases, after the race is over.

Right!

The CHRB fails to recognize the reality of the Theory of Large Dollars, which, as written by me, states: "Whenever there is Big Money involved, you can count on someone trying to figure out a way to get their hands on it without getting caught."

I am not a conspiracy nut. Fact: in the past couple of years, we've seen mutuel clerks in New York and West Virginia nailed for laundering money and past posting, respectively. If there's a way to do it, even on a temporary basis, someone will find a way to try.

There's something oddly disquieting about the notions that (1) the phenomenon of odds changing after a race has been run has become far more noticeable and widespread recently than just a few years ago and (2) the CHRB, for one, feels the need to assure the betting public that nothing is amiss. It's been my experience that whenever any regulatory body expresses this idea, you can indeed bet that something's wrong someplace.

Racing continues to fight the stigma of being an easy game to fix. Its checkered reputation of many years ago is still alive, particularly in the national popular media. With this in mind, how can you quickly and easily explain to a newcomer why the wager, which you told him would pay $10 or so at a minute to post will now pay $6 and change...or in extreme cases even less? For newbies and veterans alike, regardless of the explanation, something stinks!

So what do I suggest? Most people will probably call it extreme, but I see only one possible solution to this situation.

Have the tech guys examine the entire "hub" system and find the weakest link---the one that takes the longest time , whether from secondary hub to primary hub to live racing track, or whatever. Then---are you ready?---close the betting at x minutes before post time, whether that time is two minutes or five minutes...or more!

You bet  on a 4-1 horse, you get paid 4-1!

Your horse rears up in the gate or causes a huge delay in the start of the race because he's angry or hurting or just plain ornery? Gee, pal, that's tough racing luck. They don't give refunds when the jockey falls off a few steps out of the gate, either.

Drastic? Absolutely? Offensive to some players? Yep. But you know what else it is? The best damned incentive for the industry to do the work needed to get the transmission of wagering data accomplished in real time from all simulcast locations.

This is the way it SHOULD have been developed, rather than the current hub system which, under the label of convenience for simulcast bettors, is really a convenient conduit for tracks to take money from players under false pretenses--namely, odds that say one thing, but more and more frequently, mean something else. 

Nothing works better than the threat of losing income (especially when it comes to Large Dollars) to get management off its butt to remember that its customers are what generates those dollars.

Until "real-time" technology replaces the hub system, players are advised to incorporate the changing odds factor into their money management, reduce play when dropping odds become regularly unacceptable, and keep on track management to bring their operations up to standards that take today's racing reality into consideration.

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