Internet Focus Opens Simulcast Conference

(edited press release)
The topic of Internet gambling, both the federal prohibition and its still possibly disruptive effects on pari-mutuel business will open the 14th annual International Simulcast Conference in Philadelphia Oct. 16-18.

John J. Farmer Jr., a former Attorney General for the state of New Jersey, will speak on the likely impact the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act's possible passage will have on the gaming industry. Farmer currently is a partner at the law firm of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham LLP, based in Newark, N.J.

Greg Avioli, interim CEO of the NTRA/Breeders' Cup Ltd., will begin the opening session on the Internet gambling law passed by Congress with an in-depth review and analysis of its specific impact on the pari-mutuel industry.

The pervasive reach of the Internet has forced several industries, including the pari-mutuel, to adapt and modify business models to compete in a technologically driven environment. Dr. William Shanklin, a professor of marketing strategy at the University of Akron whose recent research focus has been the Internet's impact on industry, will moderate a panel discussion on its inherently disruptive nature to some businesses. Shanklin will be joined by The Philadelphia Inquirer executive editor for sports Jim Jenks for a newspaper perspective and by Jim Murphy, former general manager of Atlantic City Race Course and founder of Murphy & Advisors, for insight on the investment industry.

With ever-advancing technology becoming available to consumers, the general sessions for the balance of the conference will feature a number of presentations on the pari-mutuel industry's role in meeting increasing demands and standards by the customer.

ESPN sportscaster Jeannine Edwards will moderate Tuesday morning's panel discussion on possible shifts in public reaction to equine injury rates. The conversation among panelists likely will include track surfaces and equine medication. Robert N. Elliston, president and CEO of Turfway Park will join Edwards. Turfway is the first North American racetrack to have installed a synthetic racing surface. Renowned trainer and inventor of the Tapeta racing surface Michael Dickinson will join the discussion, along with Philadelphia Daily News sports writer Dick Jerardi, Florida HBPA executive director Kent Stirling, and racing fan Charles Engelberg.

Discussions Tuesday morning center on strategies for attracting and investing in simulcast players and the balancing of those strategies amid a wagering landscape dotted with competitive strains. Racetrack managers such as Hawthorne's Tim Carey, New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority's Dennis Dowd and Greenwood Racing's Hal Handel take part.

The topic of jockeys' compensation and claim of media rights start Tuesday afternoon's plenary sessions. Representatives of the pertinent stakeholder groups will confront the issue in a public forum for the first time. TRA's executive vice president and racetrack operator voice in the discussion, Chris Scherf, will moderate and share the stage with Dwight Manley, national manger of the Jockeys' Guild; Alan Foreman, chairman and CEO of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Associations, Inc.; Dan Metzger, president of the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association; and Joe Santanna, chairman of the board and president of the National HBPA.

The technical picture quality of simulcast racing will be the focus for Tuesday's concluding session. While several racetracks and simulcast outlets are investing substantial capital outlay into the construction of impressive simulcast centers, the pictures broadcasted among tracks are noticeably disparate in quality. Panelists will discuss the technical aspects of upgrading to digital and hi-definition broadcasts, including production, transmission, and hardware concerns and associated expense. Television and satellite vendor representatives – International Sound Corporation vice president David Snyder and Roberts Communications Network president and CEO Todd Roberts – will join HRTV's Amy Zimmerman, Philadelphia Park's John Dixon, and, Mike Tanner, director of racing at the recently-opened Harrah's Chester Casino & Racetrack, in the video presentation discussion.

The conference concludes Wednesday with presentations from North America's three major tote company representatives. Scientific Games Racing's president of sports and gaming technology Bill Huntley, United Tote's president Jeff True, and AmTote International's president Steve Keech will have an opportunity to share with the audience present and future plans for their respective companies. The Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau's director of wagering analysis J. Curtis Linnell will follow with an update on the developments of Wagering Transmission Protocol, the industry's tote initiative to replace Inter Tote System Protocol currently used by all North American tracks for tote data transmissions.

The Simulcast Conference will be held at the Sheraton Society Hill and is co-sponsored by the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, Harness Tracks of America, and American Quarter Horse Racing, in conjunction with the American Greyhound Track Operators Association. Additional details on this year's conference, including a link to the tentative agenda, can be found on the TRA's Web site.