Simulcast television production and the problems inherent with post-time coordination were at the forefront Sept. 24 during second day of the three-day International Simulcasting Conference in Bal Harbor, Fla.
Other topics on the agenda included a presentation by David Crupi of the Mohegan Sun racebook on how racetrack employees can spot problem gamblers, and a description by Ken Kirchner of the Head To Head wager being offered for the first time this year on the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.
Also, Hollywood Park received the award for the best simulcast production, the criteria for which was described by Doug Reed of the University of Arizona's Racetrack Industry Program. "The difference in simulcast production from when we began giving this award until now if like night and day," Reed said. "The quality of simulcast production has increased tremendously."
Reed was followed to the podium by three other speakers on the subject: Amy Zimmerman, the producer of Santa Anita Park's simulcasting program; racing customer Tom Graham; and ESPN director Dorinda Ivey.
Zimmerman, who has twice accepted the award for best simulcast production on behalf of Santa Anita, related her experience that the costs involved in improving simulcast production quality are more than overcome by the resultant increase in handle.
"A lot of tracks are still using the equipment put in place years ago for stewards' reviews," she said. "Tracks need to invest the money necessary to put in quality equipment because anything that makes the life of the patron easier will increase the amount he or she bets."
Graham, a customer at Calder Race Course in Florida, said he watches and bets up to 10 tracks each day and called for tracks to maintain standardization of the simulcasting products they offer. "Fans need information and need it quickly," he said.
Earlier in the day, a five-person panel discussed the difficulty involved with coordinating post times, and while there was consensus it is a significant problem that costs the industry money, there were few suggestions on how it can be improved.
"Customers absolutely want post times coordinated better," said America TAB system's Todd Bowker, who served on a recent National Thoroughbred Racing Association task force on the subject. "But getting everybody to work together on a national basis is impossible."
Instead, the panel that also included Patrick Troutman of the Churchill Downs Simulcast Network, Bay Meadows' mutuel manager Bryan Wayte, Robin Burns of TVG, and Tim Leuschner, representing Florida Greyhound tracks, concluded that the best that could be hoped for is coordination of post times among tracks by either region or significance in the racing hierarchy.
"Let's try to start small (and) at least separate the post times of graded stakes by five minutes," Bowker said.
Kirchner, meanwhile, laid out the NTRA/Breeders' Cup plan to offer a single head-to-head match-up in each of the eight Breeders' Cup races Oct. 26 at Arlington Park. The wagers, which will have a takeout rate of 10%, will be announced once the fields are drawn and might include match-ups pitting two prominent jockeys or trainers or a European runner against an American.
"It's a wager designed to appeal to the new and casual fans and also the sports bettors," Kirchner said.