Commmittee to NTRA: Put Brakes on IBM Deal

A committee formed to make recommendations to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association is expected to suggest the organization put the brakes on its relationship with IBM Global Services and perhaps give the full membership a chance to vote on the proposal. In addition, the committee reportedly has recommended that the NTRA continue to rely on membership dues rather than look for external revenue sources.

Bill Walmsley, a member of the NTRA board of directors and spokesman for the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said the committee, formed earlier this year at the request of racing associations in the Mid-Atlantic region, probably will present its report when the NTRA board of directors meets Thursday in Saratoga Springs, N.Y

Some members of the committee are said to be poised to write a letter distancing themselves from the recommendations. Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis, who serves as spokesman for the committee, couldn't be reached for comment.

IBM Global Services has suggested the racing industry purchase or create a totalizator system to control its own destiny and open the wagering business for further growth. In addition, IBM would provide key technological advances for the industry, racetracks in particular, in exchange for a percentage of handle.

The committee apparently would like the NTRA to slow down and devise a business plan that includes the IBM Global Services proposal. Others said it's more extreme.

"There are those in the industry today that want the IBM project killed," Walmsley said Saturday during a board meeting of the NHBPA. If there is strong opposition to the IBM deal and the streamlining of the tote process, it hasn't been publicly stated. During an NTRA membership meeting in Dallas, Texas, in June, no one objected.

"We value the input of all of our members, but at first glance it looks like the recommendations of this committee are diametrically opposed to what the vast majority of our members want," said Chip Tuttle, the NTRA's vice president of communications.

An update on the IBM proposal is expected at the NTRA board meeting and The Jockey Club Round Table, which is scheduled for Aug. 13 in Saratoga Springs.