Symposium to explore slots, poker

Dec 6, 2005 4:15 AM

The growing importance to racetracks of slot machine revenue will be one of the main topics discussed at the 32nd Annual Symposium on Racing & Gaming, Dec. 5 through Dec. 8, under the sponsorship of the Race Track Industry Program of the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Delivering the keynote speech at a luncheon at Ventana Canyon Resort will be Lorne Weil, chairman and CEO of Scientific Games Corp., two companies (Autotote Corp. and Scientific Games Corp.) that became a major force in both the racing and lottery services when they were combined a year ago.

Weil is expected to focus on the "convergence of gaming and racing" and "how the industry can leverage strengths in one to fully capitalize on the other, for the benefit of both."

Kicking off the various group discussions will be one that will approach the subject of "racinos," as racetrack/slot venues have been named, from the standpoint of experience.

Leading the discussion will be Karl Gagesch, an executive with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission, one of the oldest and more successful advocates of racinos; Ron Sultemeier, president of Delaware North Companies Gaming and Entertainment, operators of a dog track/slots facility in West Virginia and soon to be the operator of a slots facility in West Memphis, Ark., and Walt Hawkins, director of business development for International Game Technology Inc., provider of a large number of gaming machines being used at pari-mutuel facilities.

For the tracks planning to become racinos in the near future, another discussion group will identify the demographic traits of racino customers, and how they contrast with regular racetrack goers. Speakers will be Steve Rittvo, president of The Innovation Group and Dean Hesterman of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.

Marketing the racino and the types of food and beverages to be offered at such complexes are other subjects to be explored.

On the racing front, topics to be discussed will involve politics, science, money and breeding, as well as the development of databases and the use of sophisticated software.

There will be additional segments on racino design, the management of media rights, and international and interstate commerce issues.

On Thursday morning, financial analysts from Wall Street will meet to discuss their perspectives on the public companies that operate tracks, especially those that have converted to racinos. Participating in the discussions will be Aimee Marcel of Jefferies & Co., Eric Hausler of Bear Stearns and Matt Sodi of The Innovation Capital.

Although the scheduled discussions will attract a lot of attention from the symposium attendees, sure to be among the favorite subjects for discussion in the halls between meetings will be the financial problems facing the New York Racing Association, whose directors have indicated they may have to file for bankruptcy before the end of the year because of a serious lack of funds, and the recent announcement that has agreed to buy United Tote Co.