National Thoroughbred Racing Association president Alex Waldrop said the organization continues to serve an important purpose and called on industry stakeholders to make multi-year financial commitments to ensure its future health.
Waldrop, who took over as president and chief executive officer in mid-January, said the NTRA did some “soul searching” in 2006 to develop a plan to focus on its strengths. He said the organization is in a “precarious spot,” but supporting it is a “risk worth taking.”
“I didn’t leave the practice of law to oversee the status quo or demise of the NTRA,” Waldrop said Feb. 10 during the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association winter convention in Hot Springs, Ark. “My goal is to make sure we not only talk about what we’re doing but aim high. I want to under-promise and over-deliver.”
Waldrop acknowledged the NTRA in its original business plan had lofty goals, some of which failed to come to fruition. Still, he said after almost a month on the job he is amazed at everything the NTRA does given its smaller staff.
Last year, the NTRA sought one-year dues commitments from members for 2007, and thus far, it retains support. The National HBPA, which last year devised a new NTRA dues model whereby all affiliates are grouped together, announced the number of participating affiliates has jumped from 10 in 2006 to 19 this year.
Waldrop told horsemen the NTRA would seek multi-year contracts from members so it can recruit staff for various programs. He also encouraged participation in the group-purchasing program that makes money for the organization.
“The more money we make, the less dues you’ll have to pay,” Waldrop said.
The NTRA, through its Horse PAC and Legislative Action Committee, has become quite active on Capitol Hill. Waldrop noted the work never ends, however, and he used the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 as an example.
The law does contain protections for interstate pari-mutuel wagering, but the United States Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice are formulating regulations that could prove problematic for racing.
Waldrop said the NTRA already has formed a working group to lobby for regulations that won’t hinder use of credit for account wagering. “It’s not a just a legal issue,” he said. “It’s also a banking issue. We have to deal on a practical level with member banks.”
Waldrop also mentioned the Jockey’s Insurance Fairness Act, which would take half the money horsemen’s groups get from simulcast revenue to support operations and benevolence and use it to fund a national insurance plan for jockeys and backstretch workers. The bill calls for amendment of the Interstate Horseracing Act.
“The NTRA will have none of that,” Waldrop said. “We will always talk about business solutions but not legislative solutions (to the problem). The IHA is off limits.”
A priority for the NTRA this year is development of an Office of Wagering Integrity, Waldrop said. The fact it hasn’t come about after 4 1/2 years of discussion is “troubling,” he said.
“We’ve talked about it too long,” Waldrop said. “We have to make progress.”