|With nearly 85 percent of bets coming from 1,100 simulcasting outlets across North America, the industry has firmly linked its future to computerized parimutuel systems. But a $3 million win has brought accusations that the system was rigged, accusations that have implications |
for all computerised betting.
It was the advent of simulcast and account wagering, the ability to bet on races from around the nation, that helped drive the industry's gross handle from $9.3 billion in 1990 to $14.5 billion in 2001. And the online betting industry is worth billions worldwide, though North Americans cannot legally partake in that.
But horse racing agencies and law enforcement authorities are investigating whether a bet returning $3 million on the Breeders' Cup last month was rigged using computers, creating doubts about the entire system's legitimacy.
And as the industry probes its vulnerabilities and looks to reassure its customers, it is forced to confront a new and troubling reality: even as it has expanded its client base by moving into the computer and telecommunications world for parimutuel wagering, it has also created a new window of opportunity for sophisticated software chicanery.
Any widespread loss of confidence would be devastating to an industry that employs 472,000, and has identified a customer base of three million people who contribute the majority of the $14.5 billion bet annually. In addition,
the N.T.R.A. has targeted another 30 million light, or casual, fans they depend on to attend the nation's racetracks and watch on television and wager on the sport's marquee events, like the Triple Crown and the Breeders'