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Japan May Take International Simulcasts in 2016

Japan Horse RacingThe 2016 Breeders' Cup Classic is one of 24 international races under consideration for simulcast into Japan, thanks to a new law passed earlier this year by Japanese legislators lifting the ban on wagering on races from outside of Japan.

Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which oversees all activities of the Japan Racing Association, will narrow down the list of eligible races after getting feedback from officials on which contests will attract the most interest from fans. According to Sankei Sports, the first international race on which wagering will take place in Japan is likely to be France's Arc de Triomphe in early October. The Breeders' Cup would follow shortly thereafter.

Separate wagering pools will be established in Japan and it is expected that the vast majority of bets will be done via account wagering. Because of time zone differences, for example, the Breeders' Cup Classic would take place around 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning in Japan. The Arc de Triomphe would be run around midnight in Japan.

Other races under consideration for future simulcasting include the Dubai World Cup and Dubai Duty Free, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Champion Stakes from Ascot, and Australia's Melbourne Cup.

Emphasis likely will be placed on races in which Japanese horses are competing, which bodes well for the 2016 Breeders' Cup. Sachiaki Kobayashi, owner of two-time Grade 1 February Stakes winner Copano Rickey (the beaten favorite in Sunday's Grade 1 Champions Cup at Chukyo), announced that his horse would be pointed for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park in 2016. Copano Rickey is trained by Akira Murayama and ridden by Yutaka Take, the veteran 46-year-old jockey who was a big part of Japanese horse racing's dramatic rise in popularity in the 1990s when he was considered a superstar in the Japanese sports world.

But the JRA's business has been flagging since reaching a peak in 1997 when four trillion yen was wagered on 288 racing programs – an average of 13.9 billion yen per card (at today's conversion rate, that's $112.6 million per day). The only wagers available then were win, place, quinella and bracket quinella (teaming horses 1 and 2 as the No. 1 bracket, 3 and 4 as No. 2, 5 and 6 as No. 3, etc).

For the 2014 racing season's 288 programs, a total of 2.5 trillion yen was wagered, down 37.5 percent from the peak in 1997. It has stabilized in the last three years after 14 consecutive years of declines in total wagering.

Since 1997, the JRA has introduced five new wagers: a quinella place bet in 1999, exacta and trio in 2002, trifecta in 2004 and a pick 5 in 2011. Of the new wagers, the trifecta has been the most popular, accounting for 34 percent of all wagers in 2014.

The JRA earlier this year conducted an experiment to reduce takeout on win bets on races from the standard 25 percent (the takeout rate on all wagers) to 20 percent. The experiment was done over concerns that the trifecta wager – which produces the highest payoffs but also exposes the greatest amount or risk to horseplayers – was reducing the money churned back into the pools from winning bets. Anecdotally, according to sources in Japan, the JRA is pleased with the results but has not made a determination whether to continue the takeout reduction in 2016.

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