National HBPA Seeks Tighter Simulcasting Ship

The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, in a white paper on simulcasting, has called for tighter security in the export of signals as well as a review of domestic and international wagering hubs.

The white paper, released Feb. 12, stemmed from the National HBPA's winter convention in Phoenix, Ariz., in late January. National HBPA president John Roark said the paper is a "living document, subject to change and revision as new information in the areas of on- and off-shore simulcasting, account wagering, and alternative gaming becomes available."

The mission statement puts emphasis on signal security, a thorough overview of wagering hubs, and seeking horsemen's fair share of revenue. It also calls for "information-sharing alliances with foreign owners' and trainers' organizations."

During the convention, National HBPA officials said the document would be educational in nature and hopefully lay the groundwork for industry efforts. They also indicated a desire to work more closely with horsemen's associations in foreign countries.

Rupert Arnold, chief executive officer of the British Trainers Federation, was on hand for the winter convention. Roark said he intented to invite representatives from other countries to future conventions given the potential explosion of international simulcasting.

"The National HBPA has already established communications with the National Trainers Federation of Great Britain," the document says. "The NTF is the trade organization responsible for all licensed Thoroughbred racehorse trainers in the United Kingdom. Because Go Racing has negotiated for the media rights for 50 of the 59 racecourses in Britain, the National HBPA feels an alliance would be key to staying on top of these 'super hubs.'

"Another alliance that might prove worthy is one with the French Trainers Association. France commingles into U.S. pools for the Breeders' Cup. If, as predicted, we are looking at a future of global simulcasting where signals from North America are being sent to Europe and vice-versa, it is critical that we work as 'horsemen without frontiers' to ensure that the simulcast of racing signals always works to enhance local live racing and not hurt it."

The paper says pari-mutuel horse racing is legal in 43 states and generates annual gross revenues of about $3.25 billion. It says though there are more than 150 operational racetracks, most wagering takes place away from the venue of the originating race. In 1999, simulcasting accounted for more than 82.5% of North American handle, the paper says.

"While the majority of horsemen continue to trust the judgment of their respective track simulcast administrators, many are concerned about the way in which simulcasting is practiced," the document says. "At root, their concern is about the generally unknown practices of the tracks on their behalf. They worry that they may not be receiving their fair share in revenue, and they want the personal option of deciding whether the signal reaches a particular outlet or not. They worry that if the track becomes involved in a regretful business relationship; there will be no way to recover lost revenue due the horsemen."

The paper also addresses illegal betting shops in the Caribbean and source-market fees. It says the TV Games Network and Youbet.com "represent pure account wagering operation systems. America TAB and The Racing Channel are account wagering systems developed, owned, and operated by racetracks."

"When a racetrack moves its telephone wagering division away from its on-track base of operation to an out-of-state hub where no live racing occurs, there is no mandated purse structure to support," the paper says. "Basically, it allows the racetrack to take the revenue generated on telephone wagering (that might otherwise have had to divert directly into horsemen's purses) and instead distribute it to the tracks where customers/account holders in that source market may reside."

In regard to international simulcasting, the paper says less than 5% of British wagering is done through pari-mutuel conduits, so bookmakers are positioned to retain 95% of wagering on U.S. signals with no return to the domestic industry. "If legal bookmakers control exported signals, they can potentially be expected to proliferate wagering accounts in the U.S., eroding U.S. markets."

The complete white paper is available at nationalhbpa.com.

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