On the screen
Because it's only in the first month of a limited launch, details on TVG's progress were few. But Boylan took the opportunity to inform the 300 or so Round Table attendees that widespread industry support is necessary for success.

Boylan made reference to several hot-button topics tied to TVG and account wagering -- mass appeal, exclusivity, and individual agendas. At various points in his talk, he made references to them.

"I can assure you that TV Guide and its parent companies, News Corp. and Liberty Media, have absolutely no interest in investing millions of dollars for a product which will only appeal to a handful of hard-core fans," he said of TVG's product, which has been criticized as laughable by some industry insiders, particularly the press.

Of exclusivity, he said it is essential to a viable sports entertainment network. "I know that the concept has received some resistance in the industry, but suffice to say that the opportunities now before the industry would not have materialized without it."
And of TVG's wagering component, he said: "The business plan will not work, however, if TVG is unable to offer its account wagering services across the country. This is where you can make a difference right now. Talk to friends in your state capital. Don't tolerate selfish legislation that allows one state to erect trade barriers to enrich a very narrow group of business interests at the great expense of the industry as a whole."

The latter remarks clearly were in reference to New Jersey, where racing associations plan to institute their own account wagering system. Legislation as currently written would exclude TVG from the market. Two of the companies -- Greenwood Racing and Penn National Gaming -- operate successful telephone account wagering systems in Pennsylvania.
As for the product, which originates in a Southern California studio, Boylan said an early ESPN Chilton Sports Poll showed 76% of viewers in the test markets of Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, and New York thought the product to be good to excellent. About 58% of the viewers said they would be more likely to attend live racing after having watched TVG.

Time to move ahead
It was at last year's Round Table that the NTRA announced formation of a task force on drug testing standards, and this year, it introduced James Gallagher as its executive director. Gallagher summarized the task force's goals and objectives (The Blood-Horse of Aug. 14, page 4546) and acknowleged the process has just begun.

"I'm going to try to go on a listening tour," said Gallagher, who is based in the NTRA's New York office and previously served as chief of racing operations for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. "I'll be meeting with veterinarians, racing commissioners, and horsemen's associations to get a view in total and make a valuable assessment of where testing is."

In a related matter, Nick Nicholson, executive director of The Jockey Club and interim administrator of the task force, confirmed that some Florida officials have asked for assistance in regard to drug testing-related matters in light of controversy over threshold levels and the state's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

"They see the importance of the task force and are hopeful (its) work will help the situation in Florida," Nicholson said. "But we've received nothing official from the state of Florida" in terms of a request.

The NTRA task force had received about $300,000 from the National Thoroughbred Association when it disbanded and merged with the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.
Also, the NTRA announced that the board of directors of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation voted to create a $1.5-million endowment from a bequest by the late Paul Mellon to benefit the task force.

In his presentation, Marzelli said equibase.com would relaunch as a full retail Web site with e-commerce capabilities Aug. 20. The company plans to sell its popular "fan friendly" program pages directly to consumers, and will provide Daily Racing Form handicapping information under an exclusive arrangement.

Basic racing information, including workouts, entries, summary results, results charts, and program changes, will remain available on the site. Marzelli also said Equibase intends to leverage the Web site's substantial traffic -- about 400,000 hits per day -- into advertising opportunities for industry and non-industry sponsors.

In a Round Table-related matter, the board of directors of NTRA Investments LLC met for the first time Aug. 13. The board members are Smith, Oak Tree Racing Asssociation executive vice president Sherwood Chillingworth, Three Chimneys Farm owner Robert Clay, Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association chief executive officer Alan Foreman, Keeneland president Bill Greely, Hollywood Park chairman R.D. Hubbard, Thoroughbred Owners of California chairman Robert Lewis, New York Racing Association president Terry Meyocks, Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills Phipps, and Breeders' Cup Ltd. president D.G. Van Clief Jr.

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