NTRA Dues Model Would Reflect Industry Changes

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which has called 2005 a pivotal year, is working on a revised dues formula that would generate the same amount of money, if not more, yet be more equitable in light of changes in the industry since the organization launched in 1997.

The NTRA has used a formula based upon 1996 live handle at member racetracks. The new model would employ handle figures from 2003, said Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of marketing and industry relations for the NTRA.

"It will result in a new dues structure and a more fair dues structure," Chamblin said Jan. 18 during the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association winter convention in San Antonio, Texas. "We're looking at a lot of different models and hope to present (a recommendation) to the board of directors in March."

Chamblin usually attends HBPA conventions to bring members up to speed on developments and seek support from horsemen's groups. The 60,000-member National HBPA has more than 30 affiliates, but on average about one-third have been members at any given time.

"We'd like to have 100% participation from all HBPA affiliates, as well as the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and Thoroughbred Owners of California," Chamblin told The Blood-Horse. "For some affiliates, it's purely an economic issue. In fairness to the affiliates, we probably can't expect them to make a decision (on membership) until they see the new dues formula."

NTRA commissioner D.G. Van Clief Jr. is expected to attend the National HBPA summer convention in Toronto, Canada, to meet with horsemen and discuss membership issues.

The dues model has incorporated a cooperative advertising program by which racetracks get some money back for using NTRA creative materials, and the NTRA gets exposure in local markets. That program will be scrapped at the end of 2005. Because some horsemen have said the co-op program primarily benefits tracks, the NTRA devised other incentives, such as purse enhancements, for horsemen.

When asked if the new dues model would take into account revenue some tracks and horsemen earn from alternative gaming, Chamblin said: "We're not considering that type of model. A lot of the anomaly between those that have alternative gaming and those that don't is to a degree corrected by using updated handle numbers."

Chamblin noted that tracks with gaming machines have seen handle growth on their live product. Among the reasons for that are better quality racing and increased dissemination of their signals.

Chamblin said the Jan. 13 federal indictments over alleged illegal gambling and race-fixing have left the NTRA with a lot more work to do. The organization is working on renewing television contracts, maintaining and increasing sponsorships, and pursuing legislative goals.

"It really was from a public relations standpoint a 'perfect storm,' " Chamblin said of the indictments. "We got a little bit of everything. It has created some serious issues that can impact every segment of our industry. Our marketing partners want to know what's happening, and how it affects their business and our business."