12/07/2015 3:59PM

Symposium on lookout for new ideas


TUCSON, Ariz. – It is no secret horseracing is a mature industry. In fact, in the sports and entertainment market, it is one of the most mature in the world. So it’s not a surprise that an industry that began showing its age decades ago is on the lookout for some fresh thinking.

The organizers of the annual Symposium on Racing and Gaming obviously share that perspective. This year, the two-day conference, which begins on Tuesday morning at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort here, will feature four panels centering on new ideas, including a reality show-styled contest which will award the winner with $15,000.

The contest, called the “Innovator’s Circle,” is the first of its kind to be held at the Symposium, which is put on each year by the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. Applicants have been encouraged to send in outlines of their ideas to the program’s administrators for the past several months, following the announcement of the contest this summer. A final winner will be selected by a panel of judges on Wednesday. (DRF is a sponsor of the contest, and its chief executive, John Hartig, will be one of the judges.)

One day earlier, in the opening session of the Symposium, six panelists from various racing capacities will be asked to provide “45 ideas in 45 minutes,” as the panel is called. Later on Tuesday, a workshop is scheduled asking participants to agree to be assigned to teams that will be charged with coming up with ideas that could positively impact racing, and those teams will gather again on Wednesday to deliver pitches about their ideas.

Aside from the idea panels, the Symposium organizers have also scheduled sessions on fantasy sports and data mining, two issues that have generated plenty of attention both inside and outside the industry. The issue of daily fantasy sports took on even greater urgency just last week, when the Stronach Group, a large racetrack operator, filed a lawsuit against Derby Wars, a daily fantasy site offering horseracing contests. The suit quickly generated debate across the sport about its legal merit and its potentially chilling effect on the sport’s increasingly popular handicapping contests. (DRF is a sponsor and administrator of handicapping contests, including the National Handicapping Championship.)

Also on the agenda for Tuesday and Wednesday are panels on the recruitment of new owners; the implementation of digital marketing strategies; the increasing cost of workers’ compensation; and the effort by racing regulators to catch cheaters. For write-ups on the Symposium, check in frequently to DRF.com on Tuesday and Wednesday.