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Friday, May 27, 2005

Unlawful Gambling and Whipping

- John Pricci, on his website They are at the Post, writes of the myriad of problems facing the industry including drugs, insurance issues, and slots (specifically the lack thereof in states where politics have precluded them). He also succinctly explains what could be the biggest threat of all.

But the most damaging to the potential future health of the sport came from, of all places, Arizona, where a bill was written and introduced in Washington D.C. called "The Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2005." Ironically, the industry itself was its catalyst.

Rather than creatively trying to compete with off-shore rebate shops that cater to the industry's best customers by discounting wagers, the industry leaned on various forms of government to abolish the competition so the tracks and OTBs could go back to business as usual. It backfired.

Rather than stand pat, the island of Antigua appealed to the World Trade Organization claiming that the "Interstate Horseracing Act" permitting electronic wagers between states where its legal, i.e. simulcasting, discriminates against foreign operators. The WTO upheld Antigua's claim.

If passed in its present form, the "Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2005" would bar credit card companies and banks from transmitting money between account holders and bet takers. Of greater significance is that the proposed bill fails to do something the Interstate Horseracing Act did; provide an exception for racing.

Should the new bill pass in its present form, simulcasting via account wagering, the only area of growth the industry has seen in a decade, would cease to exist. When that happens, smaller-track and OTB failure becomes inevitable. Then, it would be a matter of time before mega-tracks followed suit. [They are at the Post]
Senator John Kyl, an Arizona Republican is the sponsor of the bill, and he can be contacted here.

- Looks like Scrappy T is headed for the Belmont after all. Jay Hovdey of the Form and Gary Stevens are two more who are decrying the Pimlico stewards lack of action against Ramon Dominguez.
But what caused Scrappy T to swerve? Many knowledgeable observers looked no further than Dominguez, his dangling reins and his exaggerated use of the left-handed whip.

"In his defense, it was in the heat of the moment, the adrenalin's flowing, you're coming into the stretch and you've got horse . . . but I'm still baffled by what he did," said Gary Stevens, who rode Noble Causeway in the Preakness. "The windup he took with the whip - that right there was excessive."
Dominguez is a national champion and a class act who probably would have taken a set of days without a peep and still praised providence that there were no casualties. In the end, the fact that Pimlico's stewards could not find case precedent for action against Dominguez was small consolation to those still haunted by images of what might have been.
"I think the stewards sent a poor message," Stevens added. "Ramon was obviously reacting to something - but it was a poor reaction. One that could have caused a major catastrophe. If that had been me, I would have fully expected to be penalized." [Daily Racing Form (sub. or print edition only]