RCI Convention: Unity is the Word

Unity was the buzzword during the opening session of the 72nd convention of the Association of Racing Commissioners International Tuesday. The conference, which unites the RCI with the North American Pari-Mutuel Regulators Association (NAPRA), is being held at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort near Albuquerque, N.M.

The conference runs through Friday, March 31.

RCI chairman Timothy "Ted" Connors of the New Hampshire Pari-Mutuel Commission kicked off the meeting by speaking of the RCI's "strong mission, strong vision" for the future.

Ed Martin, the president of RCI stated, "For the first time in years, we come together and we are united. United in our commitment to ensure integrity of the races; united in our commitment to ensuring integrity of the wagering system; united in our commitment into safeguarding the participants and fans of these great sports that we regulate.

"We come here today united in one association of racing regulators to share a common goal, a common purpose, and a common future that is as exciting as it is challenging."

In December, directors of both NAPRA and RCI voted unanimously to join ranks. NAPRA and RCI were regulatory bodies for horse racing from different states. NAPRA was formed in 1997 by some former RCI members and others who were disenchanted with the then-leadership of RCI.

"The issue that caused the split is ancient history," Martin said in his opening remarks. "At the time, some chose to leave RCI, some chose to stay and fix the problem, and some just stayed on the sidelines. There was no right or wrong path, jurisdictions did what they felt was proper. In the end, we are all stronger and together as a result of the individual journeys we have been on.

"Think of the merger as a wedding," Martin said. "People who belong together. And for every wedding, there's a wedding reception and that's how we need to look at this entire week: a celebration of our unity as one. Now, roll up your sleeves, because we've got a lot of work to do.

"Racing is all too often paralyzed by its own, internal politics," Martin said. "That political paralysis is often the reason why the sport has been unable to safeguard its pools and access to secure its two main assets: the data stream and television signal. Often, the industry response has been reactive and seldom preventative."

Following the opening session during a model rules committee meeting, Richard Shapiro, chairman of the California Horse Racing Board addressed the issues of jockey's health and weight, suggesting to the committee that a national scale of weights be proposed. He suggested a scientific study be done to determine what the proper minimum weight of a jockey should be.

He also proposed rules for new procedures for weight verification for jockeys.

Earlier in the day, a "housekeeping session" was held for NAPRA members to finalize their merger into RCI.

As part of last year's merger of the two regulatory groups, all members of NAPRA became members of RCI as of Jan. 1, the full merger will not "fully consummate" until March 30, according to Paul Bowlinger, Executive Vice President of RCI and executive director of NAPRA.

The following were elected to the board of trustees:

Dan Hartman, Director of the Colorado division of Racing Events, president;

Frank Lamb, Executive Director of the Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission, first vice chair;

Charles Crockrom, Vice Chairman, Birmingham Racing Commission, second vice chair;

Dan Subach, Chief Steward, state of Wisconsin Dept. of Administration, treasurer;

Pat Brennan, board member, Horse Racing Alberta, secretary.

During a licensing/database/information technology committee meeting, Vice Chair Joe Mushalko made a recommendation for all employees that work at a racetrack, including those working with the wagering system, be licensed.

There was also a discussion of how the two databases were to be merged into one, and is was announced that there was going to be a migration of the RCI database into the existing NAPRA database with some modifications for technological updates. An aggressive target date for the database to be working is May 1.