The Real Threat to Horse Racing From Off Shore Sports Books, Or How Horseracing Fans Are Cheated

Some people think that the horse racing industry is against off shore sports books that take bets on their races, but do not contribute to the pools or the sport, because it siphons money off that would normally be spent at the race track. If the money isn’t wagered through the race tracks, and therefore isn’t subject to the takeout, the race track isn’t getting needed revenue and people who choose to bet through those sports books are hurting the industry and even the sport that they love to bet on.

While the loss of revenue is one problem for race track, whether they are thoroughbred race tracks, harness race tracks, or even greyhound race tracks, there is another more serious problem that is seldom mentioned.

A wise handicapper can use the pools and the distribution of the money in the pools to know when a horse is live. That means that the back stretch folk, the ones in the know, bet a certain way when a horse is meant to win. Of course, that doesn’t always mean the horse will win, because nothing is guaranteed in horse racing or life, but by watching the pools and the flow of money, with a little practice, you can tell whether it is the general public betting a horse or if there is some inside money.

Unfortunately, when bets are placed at sports books that do not co-mingle their pools with the pari-mutuel pools at the race track, there is no way of knowing how much is bet on a horse or how it is bet. When what appears to be a long shot wins the race, the payoffs at the race track may be much larger than the payoff at the sports books. That is because when a race is “fixed,” it is better to bet it at an off shore book, away from the eyes of the authorities who would investigate any suspicious amounts bet on a horse that wins despite its apparent lack of ability.

Here is what I mean. If a horse appears to have little chance of winning and the morning line is 30-1, but someone bets a large sum to win on the horse or backs it multiple times in the trifecta, and then the horse wins, the racing authorities will look into it and try to determine if the race was fixed. That is part of their job. Making sure that the public isn’t cheated is part of what they do. But they don’t have access to off shore, unlicensed sports books, and therefore, cannot know that a race was fixed if a long shot wins and it wasn’t backed heavily in the pools at the track.

Fixing a race and then betting through the off shore books makes it easier to get away with it and to cheat the public. The off shore books do not use pari mutuel betting and therefore, they are getting cheated, too. If they suspect they are being cheated and a race was fixed, they certainly aren’t going to contact the racing officials. So what are their options? They can either refuse to pay the winner(s) or reluctantly payout and try to monitor those bettors in the future and refuse to take anymore bets on long shots from them.

The off shore sports books have an uphill battle when it comes to attracting and keeping customers. If they get the reputation for not paying, then they may not be able to attract customers and stay in business. So many times, they do pay, even though they suspect foul play.

I am not trying to gather sympathy for the sports books, however, and this article is about what is good or bad for horseracing. The off shore wagering on horse races is bad for the sport because it gives one more opportunity to criminals to tamper with races without getting caught. As sports go, most of horse racing is honest, but human nature being what it is, when there is the possibility of fleecing someone, there are a few people who will take advantage of a situation.

Therefore, it is in the best interest of our sport, horseracing, to have sportsbooks and other venues that are licensed and taxed and subject to oversight that take action on the races. It is also in our best interest to discourage the public and to make them aware that placing bets with off shore sports books is a bad idea and you are just setting yourself up to take a loss. I am not saying the books themselves are dishonest, but they do encourage race fixing and dishonest behavior, and that is bad for anyone who places a wager on a race.

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