Arizona offers hope for horse racing

Jan 8, 2013 3:02 AM

A followup on last month’s 39th University of Arizona’s “Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming” in Tucson, which was especially enlightening.

The conclave brought representatives from 6 continents and 20 countries, and amazingly, 20% of the attendees were international representatives: a clear indication of the “global” marketplace horse racing now envelops. Topics discussed further indicate the critical importance of sharing and learning from peers around the racing world.

Dean Shane C. Burgess, head of the UA School of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which administers the school’s Race Track Industry Program (RTIP), discussed the reduction in state funds for all programs at UA (with a new president) and expressed thanks to the corporate and private donors who keep the small but revered RTIP operating. He remains optimistic that Arizona Board of Regents will continue to support the program.

A popular panel discussion, Marketability of Simulcast Products for the International Audience was chaired by David Llewellyn, president of Australian Racing, who introduced a quality international group: Paul Cross, GM, International Business Development at TABCORP – Australia’s leading wagering company; Phil Adams, international development and operations manager, Phumelela Gold Enterprises – South Africa’s largest betting corporation; Ines Hendili, country manager, PMU, France – the Nation’s betting operator; and Pablo Kavulakian, director, Latin American Racing Channel.

This disparate group universally agreed on one critical matter: each operation is unique and requires some understanding of philosophy and style of business. For instance, most of Europe does not use universal track marking devices (like 1/4 poles) – as is customary in the U.S. Nor does it use the conundrum of exchange rates for basic wagering amounts.

South Africa cannot offer a minimum $2 wager, as used for WPS betting in the USA due to the vastly lower monetary rates throughout Africa. France has no interest in co-mingling with U.S. wagering pools, already enjoying huge wagering success.

The panel further identified a major key to expanding betting – learning the methods used in each jurisdiction and using clear and creative marketing to introduce wager opportunities in new markets. The racing operators most desirous of marketing their simulcast signal to new and cooperative venues will benefit from these exporting and importing operators who are willing to create commonalities for their wagering public.

Another seminar/discussion topic, “The Changing Face of Account Wagering,” drew strong interest from the attendees. This panel was chaired by Paul Estok (Univ. of Arizona graduate RTIP), executive vice president and general counsel of Harness Tracks of America. He was animated in his presentation about symposiums of yesteryear when a similar panel would have been consumed with total disagreement on considering such wagering.

Estok mentioned that in 2012 account wagering, legal and/or not, is nearly universal and a platform is set for more future legal account wagering. In addition to Estok, Joe Asher (Univ. of Arizona graduate), CEO William Hill U.S., and Ed Comins, COO and Cal-Expo, were on hand to give legal opinions and examine costs for ADW (Advance Deposit Wagering).

Comins explained the set-up charges for an ADW exceed $3 million and the legal team necessary is also expensive. He emphasized the controls required to ensure legal wagers and records must establish absolutely impeccable trails for regulators and protect the provider from violating the Federal Law involving the “Wire Act.”

William Hill is operating in an even more confined space: taking phone wagers on bets within Nevada and trying to ensure the legal use of their operation. He stressed how difficult it is to positively identify a phone wager comes from in-Nevada, and how carefully regulators continuously monitor their operations.

The panel sees the expansion of ADW if Federal legislation is passed to relax the stiff regulations governing the interstate wagering. Of course, each state will then have to make up its own rules to permit it and figure how each state can gain new tax revenue. The key words being new tax revenue.

These University of Arizona widely varying seminars, panels, and informal discussions had excellent participation--often with audience individuals questioning and introducing differing options and avenues for overall consideration.

Florida odds and Ends

It appears the 2013 legislative session is not going to address gaming expansion. However, it does appear the current racino action in the State will continue to thrive. Shortly we will have a 6 month recap on racino business and begin to measure the impact of State tax dollars as Casino Miami Jai Alai commences its second full year of operation.

 To date Isle Casino at Pompano continues to do well, but other operations are showing negligible growth. The Palm Beach Post last month outlined County plans to drop its opposition to Internet cafes. “I don’t think it’s a good use of staff time to start regulating these Internet Cafes,” Commission Chairman Steven Abrams said.

Gulfstream Park is off to a good start. The $100,000 Grade III Sugar Swirl Stakes was a strong showing for Todd Pletcher’s Dust and Diamonds ($3/$2.40/$2.10) with Johnny V aboard. The $100,000 South Beach Stakes featured Romacaca ($8.40/5/3.20) with Francisco Torres aboard for trainer Danny Miller. The six year old was sent off as a moderate favorite and beat Irish import Chokurie by a neck.

With the hoards of Notre Dame and Alabama fans extending from Key West to Jupiter, from the Elbow Room to the Breakers, it’s been a great couple of weeks for South Florida.

Baird Thompson and William Hutchinson bring a combined 80 years of gaming marketing and administration experience to Gaming Today. Contact them at [email protected].

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