Do tracks really know who's watching?
Racing continues to find new markets for its simulcast signal, but tracks and horsemen need to work together to trace where their product is sent and whether they are getting the revenues due them.
That was the theme struck repeatedly during the final panel session of the 11th International Simulcast Conference, which was held at the Hyatt Regency-San Francisco Airport in Burlingame.
Offshore betting has reached an estimated $6.2 billion a year, said Remi Bellocq, executive director of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. He told the group horsemen must educate themselves about this fast-growing phenomenon in order to gain "a fair distribution of revenue between horsemen and tracks" and to expand their wagering market opportunities.
"I tell the horsemen to empower yourself," he said. "Education is everything. There are traditional roles but in the next couple of years, all of that'll change."
He added, "My job is to bring everyone (horsemen, tracks and regulators) to the same level of knowledge."
T. Patrick Stubbs, director of corporate development for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, agreed that as the simulcast world quickly evolves, it is vital to share information about these sprouting offshore entities when it becomes available. But he questioned whether horsemen are as forthcoming as they could be.
Bellocq noted in response to one case in which the HBPA informed a horse owners' group that an unidentified overseas company was using an American track's signal for which they were receiving no revenue.
"They had absolutely no idea," he said. "We tell (horsemen), don't expect the race tracks to run after you with a check to give you, saying you left this on the table. It's a business relationship."
Some horse owner groups have attacked the challenge.
Stubbs and John Reagan, the senior management auditor for the California Horse Racing Board, said that the Thoroughbred Owners of California has been aggressive.
TOC consultant Drew Couto has investigated many of these businesses -- inspecting some of them -- and plans to give the TOC a report on his findings later this year, Reagan said. His work is part of a plan to develop a new rate model that better reflects the interests of the owners in their dealings with offshore rebate shops.
Bellocq noted that the HBPA also has retained a consultant to investigate proprietary rights for signals taken beyond national borders. He said information on many of these receivers is available to accredited organizations on the association's Web site.
Reagan said the CHRB has taken an active role in investigation of simulcasting, but it relies on its tracks as well. "If they have a contract and out-of-state approval, we can facilitate that."
He said that such reliance is "a survival technique" for regulators because of the mountain of contractual paperwork generated by all of the signal users that now exist. The system has worked well "as long as the tracks have done their homework," he added.
Common standards for regulators need to be adopted, Reagan noted, and regulators need to be communicating more effectively as well.
Sean Pinsonneault, director of wagering operations for the Woodbine Entertainment Group, agreed that reliance on the tracks is vital.
"Resources are always a challenge," he said.