In the final chapter of his 2017 book “Betting with an Edge,” professional horseplayer Mike Maloney lamented years of relative ignorance to his drawing attention to the practice of past-posting – betting after the start of a race when betting pools should have been closed, but were not.
Maloney, who has bet more than $100 million in his career, recounts myriad discussions with track executives from coast-to-coast, hoping to help secure the betting pools for the vast majority of customers, the well-intentioned.
“I’ve tried to go through the [proper] channels on this,” Maloney recounted, “but it’s continued for years and it needs to be stopped.”
These events occurred well after the 2002 Breeders’ Cup “Fix Six” scandal, an incredible event now nearly two decades ago.
As Maloney, a member of the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation’s (TIF) new Wagering & Integrity Issues Steering Committee notes, “no market in the world has more liquidity, with less protection, than racing.”
This is an issue the TIF has raised in recent months, and one that will only gain more attention in the future. As we noted in Volume 28 of #FreeDataFriday, “corruption resides at the intersection of potentially significant financial gain interacting with a system that lacks regulation and oversight. That is a frightening prospect when you look at the state of affairs across American racing.”
Mistakes can happen, and surely some element of past-posting incidents are a result of mistakes or casual, not institutional, oversights. But when they do occur, how are they rectified, if at all? Are some jurisdictions protecting customers more than others?
The issue was raised to prominence a week ago, and as outlined in our Monday story, addressed and confirmed as a non-incident by Keeneland.
Is past-posting still a thing?
An incidence of past-posting was confirmed just a month ago, June 14, 2020, on a race run at Newmarket in Great Britain.
Customers all over the world could have been impacted, but the pool is hosted in Great Britain by the UK Tote Group.
American horseplayer and 2018 NHC Tour Champion David Gutfreund raised awareness of the past-posting incident via social media just minutes after it happened.
The race was the third at Newmarket, a six-furlong test won by 17-1 chance Englishman, the longest shot in the field of 10, with 5-1 third choice Indian Raj finishing second. Returning $37.20 to win, the exacta in the race paid just $34.00. An odd result – the exacta paying less than a straight win bet. Images which remain on the Racing Post website and TwinSpires.com show the returns, with blue dots added to draw your attention.
The race handled just more than $50,000 on the commingled tote, with $15,724 in the exacta pool. With a 20 percent takeout, it left the equivalent of $12,579 to be returned to winning bettors. There would have been approximately, due to currency conversions, 740 $1 exacta bets.
Tote officials confirmed to the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation that a past-posting incident did occur. While the issue is still under review, officials noted, it is believed that an internet connection that was being used to shut the pool dropped out, leaving wagering on the race open for roughly two minutes following its start.
A number of bets were made after the race began and, according to officials, many were actually losing wagers. However, as the pool remained open even after the finish of the race, several winning bets in the exacta pool were made, skewing the payouts.
UK Tote Group, which runs tote betting for all of British racing, has confirmed they are taking steps to ameliorate the situation with customers. This will involve communicating with everyone who has been affected and ensuring no customer will lose out due to this operational error.
The specific steps are still being finalized with regulators, but it seems clear that Tote will be dipping into their own pocket to reverse the negative outcome for the impacted customers.
Is there better incentive for operators to enhance future practices and secure customers than dipping into your own purse and making negatively-impacted customers whole?
There are few examples in American racing of attempts to make up for such a mistake, though one example at River Downs, 17 years ago, is notable. Track management, and acting with the knowledge of the Ohio State Racing Commission, seeded an exacta pool with $5,000 to make up for an early meet mistake where a horse was misidentified, compounding a barn mix-up, which saw a two-start maiden run last at 5-2 against a field of winners...something none of the bettors of the race knew at the time.
“We weren’t ordered to do it,” River Downs general manager Jack Hanessian told Bloodhorse at the time, “we thought it would be the best thing to do for the bettors. We didn’t want to profit from a mistake.”
OPERATING IN RACING'S BEST INTERESTS
The River Downs example stands-out. The UK Tote Group operating in the best long-term interests of customers is healthy - though they have a regulator that would hold them to doing so.
The best interests of racing are often shunned for self-interest. Such behavior threatens a sustainable future for the sport.
Meanwhile, many are downtrodden by the years of industrial neglect.
In America, wagering “integrity” is generally passive, awaiting racetracks (some of which run ADWs and tote companies) to make a request for more information from an organization the tracks fund. An independent oversight arm, funded by entities other than those who profit from bet processing, does not exist. Wagering declines continue.
The silent victims in a wagering landscape with insufficient integrity checks are rank-and-file horsepeople and those who benefit from their spending. As casino subsidies begin to dwindle, or more tracks shift to online casinos (often outlets where they do not have to share revenue with horsepeople, like West Virginia and Pennsylvania), more cuts to prize money are anticipated.
The continued selling-short of horseplayers makes the future less sustainable for horsepeople. A bad wagering environment is bad for horse owners, trainers, jockeys, etc.
A chapter near the conclusion of Maloney’s book, quoted below, is titled “Yes, past-posting is possible.” He recounts his work on the NTRA Players’ Panel from 2003-2004, which, incidentally, also included David Gutfreund, who spotted the incident of past-posting last month.
“We spent several months meeting and coming up with recommendations we thought the industry needed to follow, including the development of a new tote system suitable to handle the speed, volume, and security levels required for the modern world. The tracks looked at our 70 recommendations, instituted a couple of things that could be done for little or no money, and the rest of them, including the number one suggestion about changes to the tote system, went ignored.”
The Players’ Panel’s lack of success was recorded by Tom LaMarra in this 2004 Bloodhorse story.
Approaching two decades later, here we are, in a far more troubling economic climate as it relates to the future of racing.
“No market in the world has more liquidity, with less protection, than racing.”