National HBPA OKs Paper, Supports Security

The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association board of directors Jan. 18 endorsed an updated and potentially controversial "white paper" on simulcasting, but it won't decide--at least for several months--its position on high-volume rebate operations.

The board also heralded its support for industry efforts aimed at policing the racing industry in light of the recent indictments in New York for alleged illegal gambling and race-fixing.

The white paper reiterates two major issues facing horsemen and others in the racing industry: tracking where signals go and how much revenue is returned to purses, and developing a business plan that combines distribution models and maximizes revenue for the entire pari-mutuel industry.

The paper also discusses a report issued by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Wagering Systems Task Force and various pari-mutuel models that can trigger increases or decreases in revenue for horsemen and racetracks. It broadly warns against singling out specific models or entities for revenue declines and notes the contradictory conclusions in the industry when it comes to rebate shops.

There was some debate during the board's meeting in San Antonio, Texas, in regard to account wagering. The paper suggests that, based on standard host fees, purse deductions, and state taxes, if the $1.8 billion wagered through hubs in Oregon during an almost three-year period had been bet on track, purse accounts would be $111.1 million richer, and racetracks would have earned an additional $123 million in revenue.

Jeff True of Youbet.com told horsemen they should take a hard look at the numbers before they endorse the white paper.

"I'm not sure it reflects the true revenue return from (advance deposit wagering) to the industry," True said. "I personally think the document needs work before it hits the street."

HBPA officials noted the document doesn't take into account source-market fees and the potential for new handle. They said, however, the white paper was intended to present a basic picture of pari-mutuel models.

"I'm satisfied with the document," said Mike Ballezzi, executive director of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "It's a horsemen's document. Anybody can second-guess if we should have done it this way or that way."

The rebate issue has lingered for years, primarily because the shops generate 10% to 15% of total annual handle, according to industry estimates. The recent indictments in New York for alleged illegal gambling tied to rebate shops led the NTRA to say it's not in the best interests of racetracks to allow rebate shops access to commingled pools until they disclose ownership and offer full access to all wagering data.

National HBPA president John Roark said he wants the organization's more than 30 affiliates to decide where they stand on the rebate issue by this summer.

On the security issue, Roark said the National HBPA "has always been and will always be in full support of any efforts aimed at finding, catching, and bringing to justice the bad guys in our sport." He said horsemen must do their part to establish "a fair and well-policed playing field."

In other business, the National HBPA plans to look at its structure and could in the future opt to compensate officers or perhaps create the position of a paid chief executive officer. The suggestion came from the organization's Planning Committee, which was reformed to help map a course of action.

Roark told The Blood-Horse he hadn't decided whether to again seek the National HBPA presidency. The two-year term will come up for election during this year's summer convention in Toronto, Canada.

The board also voted in Bob Reeves of the Ohio HBPA as chairman of its Wagering and Alternative Gaming Information Committee. Reeves has been at the forefront of efforts in Ohio and nationally to ensure horsemen receive their fair share of revenue, particularly from account wagering.

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