SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, July 14, 2009--Last week we wrote here about how one California State Senator authored a bill making its way through the legislative process that one day might result in wagering being monitored in real time in that state.

We asked for comments, reiterating that request on Sunday, July 12th in a column titled "If You Have a Minute, We Need Your Help". The piece gave a brief history of the few incidents where wagers were made after betting ended, and where late-odds drops created the false perception that “past posting” was commonplace.

The comments have been tallied. There were 69 responses--excellent for a fledgling site--most answering our inquiry directly. Others engaged in dialogue both on message and on the periphery of perception in general. We asked if betting should be stopped at post time before horses are loaded into the gate.

Twenty-four respondents answered that betting should be stopped either at post time or, at the latest, when the first horse was loaded into the starting gate. Four voters were opposed and two others seemed to indicated no real preference either way.

One interesting aside was that respondents appeared troubled by the “perception” that late-odds drops were the result of past-posting. Sadly, the only inference that can be drawn from that is that horseplayers seem to care more about how false perceptions hurt racing than regulators do.

The majority of horseplayers want betting pool information transmitted in real time but they, too, live in the real world. Many acknowledged how expensive the ultimate solution is and are well aware of racing’s economic issues. But they want the problem addressed.

One of the recurring themes is that an immediate solution--the halting of betting at post time--is available to the industry now, but for some reason the tracks refuse to enact the temporary measure because it results in short term handle losses.

Most understand that while shut outs are inevitable at first, bettors would soon adapt their wagering to the new, stringent schedule.

Racing’s audience, those who remain loyal horseplayers despite the mistreatment they believe they’re getting from racing’s power brokers, understand the issues involved, many giving the issue far more thought than those working on the inside.

For those unwilling to take the time to read through all the threads on this subject, here are some truncated comments from HRI posters that best illustrates the majority opinion of racing’s customers.

From Cangamble, Thread #14: “…I conducted this [same] survey at and two of every three players wanted betting stopped at 0MTP… and I’m sure there were some racing executives voting not to stop wagering…”

And #36: “…When only a few tracks shut off early… players will either avoid those tracks or bet back the money at another venue, so this has to be done by the entire industry. There is no way handle will drop if racing adopts the ruling throughout the industry.”

From HANA President Jeff Platt, #18: “…Close wagering early enough to allow ALL pools to be merged and final before the first horse is loaded into the gate… Show a countdown timer graphic on the track video feed. When the countdown reaches 0:00 close all wagering for that race…”

From Erik, #31: “…Divert some slot money away from purses and fortify the structure of the game… If the game’s INTEGRITY is not protected, people won’t play…”

A Few Creative Solutions:

From Thomas Byers, #57: “At exactly five minutes to post, close Pool 1! These odds are now guaranteed. Note--there will still be a late fluctuation, of course…. Pool 2 begins a fresh wagering proposition for the late, ‘smart’ money. Which pool would you use?”

From Vic Harrison, #59: “Love the idea of separate win pools... That may be as close as we get in North America to fixed odds wagering… For example, 4 unique win pools each with their own separate odds, during the 20-minute period between live races…Could make for an exciting day at the races.”

Clearly, this could solve the problem temporarily. The industry could take its time: Begin Jan. 1, 2010. Until then, announce repeatedly that a change in betting procedure is coming so that fans will have no excuses.

When instituted, have the track announcer remind bettors twice a day; when changes are first announced and again later in mid-card: All betting stops at post time.

Post big numbers on track monitors, counting down from :59 seconds. Every track must comply. It’s the one measure on which all can agree.

If implemented thoughtfully, it costs nothing and sends the right message: Racing really cares about its players think. After, maybe work can begin on coordinating post times, etc., etc. Little things that can stop the stampede out the door. If not…

The Consequences:

From Dennis, #20: “…When only three of four track remain, then [we’ll have] real time information, exchange betting, and fixed odds betting will be accepted…”

From Jack Z, #34: “This has been my rant for sometime now… It is mind boggling to see the almost total disregard management and the industry has for its life line, the bettors! I’m tired of having to fight inane battles over something that can be fixed in a flash if the industry would get together as one!”