Saturday, November 9, 2002

Suspicious bet prompts racetracks to boost security

The changes at Churchill Downs start Nov. 13

By Anabelle Garay
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - An investigation into betting irregularities at the Breeders' Cup prompted Churchill Downs Inc. to add measures to protect the wagering process at its six racetracks, officials said Friday.

The three new security measures will go into effect Wednesday at tote company hubs at facilities owned by Churchill Downs.

"We believe that our company has to take quick affirmative action where we believe we can make a positive impact in the computer systems or can further allay fears and move briskly to improving consumer confidence in our system," said Thomas H. Meeker, president and chief executive.

Keeneland in Lexington also plans to implement similar changes, after endorsing reforms suggested Friday by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's wagering technology working group. Keeneland issued a joint statement with Del Mar in California, which was also adopting the changes.

Those include installing software to scan all pools in multi-race wagers after each leg, adding equipment to record bets placed by telephone and reviewing winning simulcast wagers that involve multiple leg bets.

Starting Wednesday at Churchill Downs' tracks, an automatic betting lockout will be triggered at least one minute before the official start of the race, allowing for bet collection and tabulation of final odds, Mr. Meeker said. The change applies to on-track, off-track and electronic mutuel pool wagering of all races. Officials are still studying how to treat out-of-state money not in by deadline, he said.

"The objective there is to attempt to get final odds posted on the board prior to the time the horses leave the gate," Mr. Meeker said.

The company's racetracks will no longer take bets for pools from hub facilities without front-end electronic recording devices, which leave an audit trail from the time the wager is placed.

The third change calls for a review of winning simulcast wagers in multiple races. The tote company handling bets deemed irregular or questionable will be required to provide details of the transactions to the relevant racing organization investigating the wager.

Churchill Downs officials have not decided whether the changes are permanent or temporary.

"I'm less concerned about the cost than I am about consumer confidence," Mr. Meeker said during a teleconference.

"If there's anything we can do to improve that, we ought to do it, regardless of cost."

The action is in response to a suspicious bet worth $3 million placed on Oct. 26 before the Breeders' Cup at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill., Meeker said.

In addition to Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, the company owns Arlington Park; Calder Race Course in Miami; Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky.; Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif.; and Hoosier Park in Anderson, Ind.

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