HBPA Seeks Additional NTRA Benefits

On the heels of a strong recommendation by Bill Walmsley that more National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association affiliates join the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the NHBPA board of directors has proposed that "an equitable portion of benefits" derived by member racetracks be diverted to purses for horsemen.

The proposal came Saturday during the NHBPA's annual summer convention, held in Bloomington, Minn. The organization also took steps to ensure that simulcast signals are properly disseminated, and proposed that the industry develop a tiered system of simulcasting rates that would benefit tracks that offer live racing.

Walmsley, NHBPA spokesman and a member of the NTRA board of directors, said 40% of the affiliates represented in the room were not members of the NTRA. He said they won't share in any benefits unless they join.

"You're at a crossroads," Walmsley said. "Sixty percent of the membership is carrying the water for you. You guys have to step up the plate or realize that the train has left you behind."

Representatives of a couple non-member affiliates said they are considering membership. None indicated a desire to withdraw.

Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida HBPA, said racetracks, through the NTRA's cooperative advertising program, derive much more from NTRA membership than do horsemen. The HBPA formed a subcommittee to make recommendations to the NTRA.

The board of directors settled on a proposal that some of the money from cooperative advertising be funneled to purses, and that horsemen have a say in how that money is spent. It wouldn't pertain to tracks that spend the NTRA matching funds on top of their own expenditures.

"If tracks are putting money back, maybe we could ask for only 25%," Stirling said. "But if they're only taking this money as a gift, I want half of it."

The cooperative advertising program is considered one of the NTRA's most valuable benefits to the membership. In regard to simulcasting, the HBPA is compiling a soon-to-be copyrighted booklet that will identify all wagering outlets in the country--even bars with television sets--and pinpoint their locations. Horsemen hope to use the information to ensure that only approved sites receive signals, and that tracks and horsemen and properly compensated.

Don Sturgill, counsel for the HBPA, suggested a 15% penalty on handle per day for outlets that simulcast signals without permission. "It would give us teeth to stop this foolishness," he said.

The proposal for a tiered system of fees would have to be adopted by regulatory agencies in each state. Under an example offered by the HBPA, a wagering outlet that doesn't offer live racing or return money to purses might be charged 6.5% for a signal rather than the industry standard of 3%. Such a system would help combat rebates offered by offshore gaming operators.