5 October 2007

Something Smells Fishy At Woodbine and NFL Picks

Liberal MP Calls For Probe Of Horse Racing Regulator

OTTAWA - A Liberal MP is calling for a parliamentary probe into horse racing's federal regulator after allegations that it failed to act on infractions by the country's top racetrack operator.

Wayne Easter wants the House of Commons agriculture committee to look into the workings of the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency to "get to the bottom" of concerns the agency is failing to protect the betting public.

Easter was recently contacted by an officer with the agency who said he was ordered to suspend an investigation after submitting a report that found infractions by Woodbine Entertainment Group, which runs Ontario's Woodbine and Mohawk racetracks.

The problems related to incorrect harness-racing betting information and the reporting of betting-related complaints.

"Something smells here," said Easter, the Liberal agriculture critic.

"(The agency) is there to basically be the overall watchdog of the industry to ensure that the statistics coming out in horse racing are accurate and people who participate in the gaming industry need to be ensured that the information they are receiving is indeed accurate."

Easter wants to call veteran track officer Mark Halfacreed and his superiors as witnesses before the committee. He said the committee should also look into how employees at the agency are treated when they raise concerns about problems with the agency.

Halfacreed filed a work report which found that "the betting public have been wagering on incorrect charted program information since 2004" and that the Ontario Racing Commission and Woodbine "ignored" a complaint about the information.

The report concluded that "Woodbine has violated regulations" related to the reporting of complaints and betting information.

But Halfacreed said he was ordered in an e-mail from the agency's Ontario director to drop an investigation into the matter.

"I couldn't believe what I was reading," said Halfacreed, who has been with the agency since 1989. "I had already relayed the severity of the situation."

The director informed him it was up to Woodbine to deal with the Ontario Racing Commission "if needed to put measures if deemed appropriate in place."

"I consider this matter resolved in regard to further involvement by the CPMA," read the e-mail, dated Aug. 2, 2006.

Track operators are required to report every betting-related complaint within 48 hours, according to agency guidelines. They are also required to publish six chart lines for each horse scheduled to run on a night's card.

Chart lines are one of the most important pieces of data bettors use to decide where to put their money. Where they put their money influences the odds. The lines track a horse's position at four points throughout a race.

Senior agency and ORC officials acknowledge there are no firm guidelines governing the accuracy of chart lines. The ORC and Standardbred Canada are working on implementing a process to accredit charters that could be in effect by next spring.

There are also plans to nationalize accreditation.

David Liston, the agency's associate executive director, defended the organization, saying Halfacreed was pulled off the case because officials believed the problem had been solved.

"Based on discussions we had with the racetrack and some changes that had been made, we were satisfied that the new measures had resolved the issue."

But the problems continued, Liston now acknowledges: "Hindsight is 20-20, and, as we became aware later that year, there were still issues and we acted on them."

Liston said the agency never penalized Woodbine for failing to report the complaint because the company didn't understand the regulations. But, he added: "We made it absolutely clear that the obligation is to provide us with all complaints."

Woodbine did not respond to requests for comment but it has since installed an electronic tracking system and hired the man who launched the complaint to oversee the accuracy of its charts.

Professional horse player Jeh Stirling, however, does not believe anything would have changed if he had not pressed the issue or if Halfacreed had not gone to then-Ariculture Minister Chuck Strahl with his concerns last October.

Stirling, 47, went to the agency in March 2006 after raising the harness-racing charting issue with Woodbine on repeated occasions over 23 months.

"The system didn't work, period. I suggest someone does something to get the system working," said Stirling, who was hired by Woodbine last spring.

Stirling said he believes the agency is in "a conflict of interest" by having its budget funding come from 0.8 per cent of every dollar bet.

Halfacreed is now calling for a major overhaul of the agency that would include an audit by Auditor General Sheila Fraser and a change in the way the agency is funded.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz' office referred queries to the agriculture department.

Does anyone else think that trainers who send over the "wrong horse" for a published workout should get more than a $5000 fine? How about a year to 5 year suspension? The betting public needs more protection.

Great Canadian Gaming to put 600 slot machines at Hastings

Opinion on the the Sealy Hill reversal: Can football games outcomes be reversed because of bad calls? No. The same should apply to Ontario horse racing. The bettors of Sealy Hill don't feel very good about this reversal from a betting standpoint.

Still no commitment regarding Fort Erie's request for a bigger cut from the OLG.

Washington DC joins Arizona in banning internet wagering on horse racing

Kentucky Stewards Suspend Cobra Venom Trainer Biancone For One Year


I went 1 for 3 last week which makes my total for the year a respectable 8-3-1.

New Orleans by 3 is due for a blowout victory. Lets see how Reggie Bush can do without Deuce.

Is Kansas City really underrated? Take the 2 points at home against Jacksonville and find out.

Houston giving 5 to Miami. Someone knows something. Houston will romp.

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