NYRABets No Power to Cancel Bets Without Commission Approval: BetMGM Plays God

Written by:
Gilbert Horowitz
Published on:

It happened at one of Saratoga's most popular race events, the Whitney Weekend August 4 through 6.


A series of unfortunate incidents resulting in the death of more than one race horse.

The popular and undefeated Maple Leaf Mel suffered a gruesome injury resulting in her being euthanized that Saturday.

On Sunday, two horses were injured in the fourth race, one fatally.

The horses were then removed off the turf, the beginning of a Pick-5 wagering sequence.  Gamblers were unable to change or cancel their tickets due to the abrupt change.  This resulted in customers accusing NYRA of outright theft.

Theresa A. Genero of the Daily Gazette:

The races that had been changed from turf to dirt–races 7, 9, and 10–became an “all,” meaning that any horse that won the race would be considered a winner on the existing Pick 5 tickets, thereby significantly lowering payouts for anyone who correctly picked the winner of all five races in the sequence. Moreover, NYRA would still collect its 15% of the total amount wagering.

NYRA president and CEO David O’Rourke apologized for the incident on Wednesday.  He appeared on Talking Horses hosted by Andy Serling and admitted that mistakes were made.

“There is no excuse,” O'Rourke said. “We dropped the ball.”

We already know that but how does he intend to make gamblers whole?

He can't.

Under New York racing rules, if a surface change is made after betting has started on a wager then the off-the-turf races are considered 'all races.' The New York Gaming Commission does not permit NYRA to cancel a wager

If only that rule applied to BetMGM.  If you have been following the saga on Gambling911.com, a Special Ed school teacher had his $215,000 bet cancelled by BetMGM Sportsbook after it determined the parlay featured an "obvious error" with the odds.  They are yet to elaborate a full two weeks later on what those odds should have been.

The teacher, Kris Benton, is probably wishing a commission rule existed preventing BetMGM from cancelling his bet.

It's a bizarre twist where the rule applies at Saratoga in which gamblers certainly wish it did not.

O'Rourke said he will look into seeding some pools at a future date as a way of paying the bettors back.

“I can't fix it after the fact but I can mitigate it going forward,” he said.

The whole point of having a regulated market in the first place is to prevent companies from making trigger happy moves.

In the case of NYRABets players are furious but at least they know now not to take their outrage out on that organization.  It's still possible The New York Gaming Commission might find a way to appease gamblers.  Our own Thomas Somach has reached out to them.

The Virginia Lottery, which oversees BetMGM in Fairfax County where Mr. Benton placed his parlay bets, was in the midst of an ongoing probe of this matter.  Gambling911.com continues to monitor that situation.

- Gilbert Horowitz, Gambling911.com

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