Breeders’ Cup to be open to huge global online betting market

The Breeders’ Cup has reached an agreement that will open up wagering on the championship races to a huge new international online market.

Betfair, the British betting exchange, will be allowed for the first time to offer pari-mutuel pool betting on the Thoroughbred racing championships to its more than 2.5 million customers. The Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be run Nov. 6-7 at Santa Anita Park in California.

Last year, international simulcast betting on the Breeders’ Cup was $17.6 million of the total $155 million wagered.

That could mushroom with the new agreement, which will funnel Betfair’s wagering directly into the regular common pool pari-mutuel wagering.

“We are delighted to provide our customers with the ability to directly access the tote pools to America’s premier racing event,” said Stephen Burn, Betfair director of horse racing. “Our partnership with the Breeders’ Cup is the beginning of what we intend to be a mutually beneficial partnership with U.S. racing.”

Betfair, which bought the TVG horse racing television network in January for $50 million, is the world’s biggest online betting site. It is a pioneer of alternative “exchange” betting on sporting events, in which one customer offers a bet that another customer accepts. Betfair keeps a small percentage of the money bet.

The Breeders’ Cup will get undisclosed revenues from Betfair’s tote and exchange betting on the Championships, according to the news release announcing the deal. The release did not specify how much Betfair paid for the rights, which also will allow Betfair to stream the races live on its Web site.

“Our agreement with Betfair is an important milestone in our ongoing effort to grow the international simulcast wagering market for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships,” said Greg Avioli, Breeders’ Cup president and chief executive. “As more and more international horses participate in our championships, interest levels and wagering handle from around the world continue to increase, allowing us to maintain the highest possible purse levels for the event.”

There were a record 31 starters from outside the United States last year. This year, there were 11 international “win and you’re in” races in England, Ireland, France, Australia and Hong Kong that could send runners to the championships.

The deal comes at a time when betting on North American races is down more than 10 percent through September compared to last year and on the heels of 2008’s 7.16 percent drop in wagering on North American Thoroughbred races.

In 2008, the Breeders’ Cup was able to beat the down economy and post an increase of 5.5 percent over the $147 million wagered on the 2007 championships at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park.