In case you have been spending time on another planet, here is some news that might shock you. As of yesterday, the rate of exchange between the American and Canadian dollar has flip-flopped. The American dollar currently is worth fractions of a penny more than 99 cents.

First, the dollar. What’s next, innovation?

A few years ago, our racing friends north of the border realized that it was losing wagering market share to other forms of gambling. Since last year they have been conducting a review of gambling regulations as it concerns the racing industry vis a vis other forms of gambling.
The Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency realized that the thoroughbred and harness racing industries provided the oldest, institutionalized form of wagering and, as such, their rules were antiquated and placed racing at a competitive disadvantage with casinos, the Internet, and government regulated lotteries.

Resultantly, the Agency has proposed to eliminate or change restrictive regulations to permit expansion of wagering menus at the tracks and increase the kinds of betting options available. The CPMA has also taken an active role in the social aspects of gaming, requiring its teletheaters to offer seating, food and washrooms.

Parenthetically, if New York’s State Racing and Wagering Board permitted those amenities from the outset, maybe New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg would not be making these ridiculous threats about closing betting parlors in the five boroughs because they lose money.

On an administrative level, the CPMA is proposing measures to allow telephone betting accounts and is trying to figure ways to create synergy between the racing industry and other forms of government regulated gaming, such as slots.

Of greater interest to bettors is the expansion of the wagering menu to include new wagers with a fractional component, bets that would exponentially increase the possibility of windfall payoffs. To that end, Canadian regulators are considering the institution of the V75 and V64.

These wagers are among the most popular bets in Europe. The V75 jackpot is a Pick 7 wager that in a short period has become Europe’s most popular bet. Despite the 10-Cent minimum, the V75 attracted a record handle of $11-million U.S, according to figures quoted in the Toronto Globe and Mail. The V64 is a Pick 6 offered on Swedish harness races with a 20-Cent minimum. The carryover in the V64 has reached $25-million.

Despite the inexpensive cost, the V75 reached a record high payoff of a lottery-like $6.5-million while the V64 reached a high-water mark of over $566,000. It is amazing what a difference fractional wagering, marketing on a national level, and life-changing payoffs can make.

In addition to tapping into the mentality of lottery players, the potential for huge payoffs in these super-exotic pools minimizes competition from offshore bet shops that will not risk booking bets with such a low handle-to-payout ratio.

In the stodgy world of American pari-mutuels, indifference is often confused with tradition. State racing regulators continue protecting the wagering public against itself while red state politicians have done their best to make gambling America’s next wedge issue.

Since the racing industry does not figure to get help on the national level anytime soon, America’s racetracks must begin showing creativity in wagering options in the areas of bet diversification, the placing of wagers, and creating the potential for windfall payoffs.

To paraphrase the political catchphrase of another administration: “It’s about the money, stupid.”

It is not as if America’s tracks are not trying. Last year, Arlington Park introduced 50-Cent trifectas, a wager that seems ideal for bettors with a slots mentality. On point, it gives the average horseplayer the leverage he needs to collect more often and to use the kind of marginal contenders that help inflate payoffs.

On the third Saturday of May at Pimlico, a 25-Cent Pick 6 was available on a stakes-loaded program that culminated with the Preakness. However, either no bet-takers in New York State thought to ask the Racing and Wagering Board for permission to take the wager, or the venues wouldn’t pay tote companies to re-program the betting machines. Either way, more potential handle lost; less customer service given.

In New York, the NYRA introduced the “Grand Slam,” and the bet has played to mixed reviews. Interesting in that it was a four-race sequence requiring an in-the-money finish in the first three legs, thus loading the bases, and the winner of the fourth leg, to hit a Grand Slam.

However, the wager is just not that interesting and it makes no sense to tie up betting capital for a relatively small return. The wager was a little interesting at Saratoga because of the quality of the competition and higher average payoffs. But at least track management tried something, like when it lowered the takeout on Pick 6 from 25 percent to 15 on non-carryover days.

Efforts made by America’s tracks have been few and far between. There has been no movement toward, say: A 25-Cent “North American Pick Six” every Sunday, on six stakes races from the USA and Canada.

Promoted continentally, entries would be taken Wednesday; wagers taken everywhere for four days (Thursday through Sunday, including Internet). Then print the entries in USA Today on Thursday--right next to the illegal sports betting lines--with a rotating group of nationally recognized handicappers from the areas hosting the races, forming a super-consensus-box guide.

Like the current Magna 5, races should be bundled into a nationally televised, one-hour show live on one of the ESPN networks--or suitably large regional sportsnets--and streaming on the Internet. During the NFL season, find a Saturday window, excluding Breeders’ Cup day, for a three-day national wager leading into the local evening news.