For simulcasting, it’s deja vu
all over again

Feb 17, 2004 7:07 AM

Can it be that more than a dozen years have passed since that controversial meeting regarding the expansion of simulcasting at the annual Symposium on Racing conducted in Tucson, by the Racing Industry Program of the University of Arizona?

As the pioneer of the simulcasting industry in Las Vegas, as well as for the entire country, we felt that we were well-qualified to address the racing industry on the status of the simulcasting business as well as what we felt would be its future.

What follows is the Jan. 5. 1991 Sports Form report on that gathering:

Recent suggestions by Sports Form Publisher Chuck Di Rocco and others that the future horseplayer may be sitting at home and using a credit card to bet horse races being shown in his living room through pay-per-view or other cable system has caused a stir among thoroughbred breeders in Kentucky.

At a recent meeting of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, an informal hand count indicated that a majority of owners and breeders attending indicated a preference for active involvement in shaping the direction and scope of a national simulcasting plan being advanced by the Thoroughbred Racing Associations.

Several horsemen in the crowd vehemently opposed the concept of any simulcasting across state lines.

"It’s one thing to simulcast major events such as Grade I Triple Crown races," said one participant, "but it’s another matter when widespread simulcasting of full or partial race programs from one state to another proliferates."

Critics of the home cable scenario (they booed Di Rocco when he made the predictions) fear such "progress" would result in fewer tracks offering live races. This in turn would result in a greatly reduced demand for thoroughbreds.

"We need to maintain locally-owned, small tracks where an average guy can race horses," said Alfred Nuckols, Jr., treasurer of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club.

"Expanded simulcasting could eliminate the need for many of our tracks and horses, and eliminate small people from horse ownership. What we then would create would be an elitist situation where only the very rich could own horses running at the remaining large tracks."

The subject of jobs also was prominently mentioned.

Thoroughbred racing should be viewed as part of a large, vital industry, said veteran trainer Sam Ramer, who emphasized that expanded simulcasting would negatively impact jobs and local and state economies.

"We are not just a gaming industry," he said. "We need to preserve racing as a beautiful sport, as a celebration of the horse. If all we offer is gambling, then we can’t compete with bingo or the lottery."

Robert Levy, representing the TRA, said his organization was seeking to make simulcasting something "the industry controls rather than have it develop in a haphazard manner that prevents its use to the maximum benefit of the sport.

"We do not want to usurp anyone’s position in the decision process, but only to create a framework within which each race locale can survive and grow. That’s why we’re seeking input from all segments of racing."

At the recent Symposium, Di Rocco prophesied that cable television, particularly, pay-per-view television, would be the vehicle used in the future to bring thoroughbred racing to the fans.

(It’s now 2004 and as every racetrack operator in America knows, without simulcasting revenues, their tracks were be closed. Also, without cable or pay-per-view, there would be no TVG or Youbet.com etc. Editor)