The two regulators' associations in North America, during a Dec. 10 meeting in Tucson, Ariz., discussed a potential merger of operations but didn't come to a firm decision. Still, the talks, which will continue, were categorized as positive.
The Association of Racing Commissioners International and the North American Pari-Mutuel Regulators Association will hold their first joint convention in April 2004 in New Orleans, La. Members of a special committee made up of members of both organizations met in Arizona to continue the merger dialogue.
Lonny Powell, president of RCI, said Dec. 13 representatives met "to discuss the possible creation of a new organization of regulators which would be formed through a merger of the two existing associations. We've met several times since early October, and plan to have addition meetings before convention time and beyond."
Powell acknowledged the talks are "still in the early stages but advancing." He said the meeting Dec. 10, held the week of the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing, was "constructive, amicable, and productive."
The 10-member committee charged with exploring the merger has five RCI members and five NAPRA members. RCI is represented by Norm Barron (Ohio), Charles Gardiner (Louisiana), Powell, Lynda Tanaka (Ontario, Canada), and Frank Zanzuccki (New Jersey). NAPRA is represented by Gary Belecki (Alberta, Canada), Stan Bowker (Virginia), Leary Claypool (Saskatchewan, Canada), Mike Hopkins (Maryland), and Dave Roberts (Florida).
NAPRA was formed in 1997 when some jurisdictions expressed displeasure with RCI and resigned. Powell took over at RCI a few years ago, and since that time the two organizations have been working together on things such as joint model rules for the pari-mutuel industry. The 2004 joint convention is considered a major step forward given the animosity between the associations in the late 1990s.
On Dec. 10, members of both associations took part in a meeting at which the national Racing Medication and Testing Consortium rolled out its proposal for a uniform medication and drug-testing policy. Support from regulators is key to the proposal moving forward.