12/08/2015 1:41PM

Symposium: '45 Ideas' panel proves popular


TUCSON, Ariz. - The Symposium on Racing and Gaming this year kicked off on Tuesday with a somewhat risky session in which five panelists were asked to deliver nine new ideas each that could impact the racing industry, and if the size of the audience was the measure, it was a rousing success.

The conference room at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort here, where the panel was held early on Tuesday morning, was standing-room only, indicating the rapid-fire restriction of the panel and its peculiar format certainly had entertainment value for attendees. Whether any of the ideas - which ranged from the formful to the fanciful - will have any impact on the game is another matter entirely.

Certainly, some of the ideas had been aired prior to the Symposium panel, including several calls to reimplement programs that have died or stalled, such as the industry’s ill-fated attempt to band together to fund a national marketing campaign in the late 1990s. Others, however, were far more novel, including several calls to begin experimenting with takeout rates and purse structures, with a piggybacked idea to study the results of such experiments in-depth.

The format allowed each of the five panelists one minute to explain each of their ideas, on a rotating basis, which did not allow for much introspection or any debate. The panelists were: Steve Byk, the host of a horseracing satellite-radio show; Daryl Kaplan, the editor of Trot Magazine; Steve Koch, the director of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Safety and Integrity Alliance; Peter Rotondo, the vice president of media and entertainment for Breeders’ Cup Ltd.; and Amy Zimmerman, the director of broadcasting for The Stronach Group.

Despite the shallow format, some quixotic ideas certainly generated food for further thought. Koch notably said that racing needs to approach the International Olympic Committee with a proposal to add “one or more Thoroughbred racing events” to the event, which is held every four years in various locations around the world. The IOC certainly has the pedigree for adding events – golf will return to the Summer Olympic Games in Rio next year, a prospect that has electrified the international golfing community – and, as Koch noted, the Olympics already holds a variety of equestrian events. As a measure of the idea’s intrigue, several other panelists returned to the idea later in the session, as did several other officials after the panel.

A basket of ideas touched on the need to deal with racing objections and disqualifications more efficiently and transparently, by centralizing replay offices and requiring public explanations of decisions through a variety of formats, much as most other major sports do. Marketing was a frequent subject, with several advocating for more intense efforts to market to Latinos and families. Kaplan called for the mass marketing of tiny shares in horses, perhaps even sold at large retail locations, to be given as gifts.

While many of the ideas called for the implementation of a specific program, some were nebulous. Zimmerman, for example, saved for last a call for the industry to conduct its fights behind closed doors, in an indirect reference to the bitter, highly public infighting that has taken place over the past five years regarding the industry’s medication policies and drug testing, most notably in regard to the legal raceday use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide.

“We need to stop fighting externally,” Zimmerman said. “It’s not all about [us versus them]. It’s all about all of us. Without all of us, there is no sport. And yet we insist on having these conflicts play out quite publicly. There is no other sport in the country that does this.”

Acknowledging that many of the ideas had little chance to be implemented, Koch closed the panel by saying the work that went behind the exercise had value in and of itself in that it would likely lead to far more detailed discussions among the racing officials gathered in the conference room.

“If even only a couple of nuggets stick from this, then congratulations to this whole room,” Koch said.



Jack Armstead More than 1 year ago
The irony of this "Symposium" being held in Tucson, AZ and the "call-out" for new ideas is without parallel. I had the worst experience in a Tucson OTB just this weekend. I get one day a week to unwind and compete for pari-mutuel dollars. I got to the OTB early to find a good seat with lighting and an outlet for my laptop. The best high-definition TV had Aqueduct on it and I was happy. I study the body language of each horse and "High-Def" is the best asset there is. A lot of us complain about how they treat horseplayers in the country, but; I'll match any Tucson AZ horror story customer service issue with any of you. Half the OTB's have such poor lighting that you can't read a Daily Racing Form. When I find one that does... and the owner turns the OTB over to 2 (that's only "two") people who walk in and want to watch some early season basketball game on the High-Def TV I'm dialed into, what am I to do? I can't pick up all my stuff and move because there's no lighting/electricity. If these Tracks want to take/make/increase handle, they can't handicap someone like me with a loud TV (that HAD Aqueduct on it; Muted) and change channels to a football game that happened to be on before AZ vs. Gonzaga. I felt like I was playing "Blackjack" in the dark and they put on a live and loud Punk rock band in front of me. This is another of a long list of reasons that this once great sport is dying. The local Dog Track is covered by protectionist politics and couldn't stay open without the handle from Horse racing, and; the Indian casinos (who SHOULD have taken over the signal years ago; like everywhere else) would never treat a customer like we get treated here. Global warming made Saturday at Aqueduct like a cool October day. I looked at these two clowns who wanted to watch "basketball/football" at a Horse-racing OTB (when it was on local Cable already) and realized that my only choice to remain sane was to leave. I effing left that place... unlikely to return until the Spring preps. I too made a few phone calls when I got home, but; I soon realized I was "reading 'Shakespeare' to a pig" and hung up on them. They are hamstrung on several political levels as well. Who decides if Equine athletes and their owners, trainers, handlers... are better than Doberman's? In AZ, politicians do; I give up. I can put up with a lot of stuff (we just adopted a 6 year old and my sister has bladder cancer), but; I can't put up with being treated like an idiot (who is risking the real money that drives this sport) because my State refuses to provide me with Equal Protection and/or a fair competitive position. I submit that if you live in Tucson AZ and like to play the horses, the State is intent on handicapping you. Other players in other States can get Twin Spires accounts and receive "free perks" (like race replays). We can't. They finally allowed "Phone Wagers" but that doesn't help Turf Paradise who loses money on this. I had a Twin Spires account and it was terminated when our laws changed. However, they (Twin Spires) left it on because I solved a technical problem with an Audio File that crashed on all the old "You Bet" customers PC's. I fixed it for You Bet (several times)and when Twin Spires purchased them, I realized that they inherited this technical issue right after a large lay-off of You Bet technical support people. It took me hours to get them on the phone (because they were backed up with more calls) and I offered to help them. When the head Twin Spires I.T. support guru finally spoke to me, he said he'd do "anything" to fix this. I said I just wanted access to my account without Wagering when the AZ politicians killed online Poker and Horse racing. Twin Spires was grateful and allowed me to keep my account open with all the Platinum features (except Wagering). I will always be forever grateful to Twin Spires for honoring their word when I told them how to repair the audio file problem. It was just about 6 months ago that they told me that they couldn't keep it on because the phone wagering was still illegal in Pima County. As I began this post... the irony of having this symposium here in Tucson... is amazing.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
Wow. Zimmermans proposal is a real window into ravings mindset. These guys believe the public is a lot less sophisticated than they really are .in their minds not discussing the problems racing has in public is equall to a solution .amazing...here's a news flash just about every racing fan knows there is a serious problem with drugs .they know that testing does not work the way it's is being conducted. They do not trust the integrity of the sport or the industry and its leaders. Many think the industry is so corrupt only federal oversight can fix ( excuse the pun) it. Some like me believe the industry already hides way too much and that is also a serious problem. As an example some jockeys were indicted for race fixing yet not a mention in the country's most prominent racing form . But the word got out anyway when people started wondering what happened to 3 jockeys that were no longer at the track .the research on line revealed they had been indicted. So hiding information in the Internet age is impossible.besides light is the best disinfectant. This industry needs to stop burning its head in the sand . Infractions and problems need to be addressed publicly and resolved quickly.otherwise you erode the little good will that you might still have.
John Boyes More than 1 year ago
Ill tell you what got my friends and I all hooked on racing ! In the early 60's, one of the major supermarkets , maybe Ralphs would give out a playing card each week for a show on TV , Saturday nights at 8pm ! The card would have 8 races with a horse # for each race . Saturday night, "Lets Go to the Races " would show a replay show from somewhere , usually a small track , and you would have a horse in each race . If you won a race , usually $500- $1000...............+ you had to go to the track to collect. Will Call would have your passes and voucher,... and there you were at the races . The feature race would be worth $5000 and also pay for place & show . The market was busy all week long with people buying to get a "Lets Go to the Races " entry card . We used to pool our change to get each card . I cant tell you how much fun Saturday nights were watching these races . This was a fast & simple way to integrate the new player with the "lingo " and "HOW" to play the races .
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
Why cant we see all of the ideas ?
AskRubenHow2Bet More than 1 year ago
Many of them were live tweeted by Matt earlier today. If you aren't on twitter you LD definitely join. Perfect m medium for racing.