12/06/2002 1:00AM

Symposium: Plenty to discuss despite absence of tote companies

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The University of Arizona Symposium on Racing was supposed to be a coming-out party for the totalizator companies. Instead, it is turning out to be a game of hide and seek.

Officials at the three tote companies operating in the United States - Autotote, United Tote, and AmTote - had been given a one-hour opportunity on Wednesday afternoon at the Symposium to take questions about the ongoing Breeders' Cup pick six investigation, which has thrust the companies' policies under a spotlight. After initially agreeing to appear when the panel was added to the lineup two weeks ago, all three companies backed out at the last minute, citing legal concerns.

The cancellation of the panel has taken a bit of the blockbuster appeal out of the Symposium, which begins Tuesday and is expected to attract approximately 1,000 racing officials to Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Ariz., where the conference is held every year. Directors of the Symposium had expected the tote panel to draw the most attendees of any panel of the conference.

"I think there are a fair amount of people who want to know what the latest is, and they want to hear it from the horse's mouth," said Doug Reed, the director of the university's Race Track Industry Program, which puts on the Symposium. Reed called the cancellation "disappointing."

Issues that have been brought up by the pick six scandal are still expected to get a fair amount of play at the conference. A second panel that was added late to the schedule to deal with betting issues will go ahead as planned, but no tote officials are scheduled to speak. The panel, "Integrity of Technology," will be held Wednesday morning.

Also, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which has dominated the conference's Friday morning sessions since being formed in 1997, will devote a significant portion of its presentation this year to wagering and security issues, according to an NTRA official.

Just after the pick six investigation was launched on Oct. 27, the NTRA set up a task force to issue recommendations on improving the parimutuel system. Several weeks ago, the NTRA hired a consulting firm headed by former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani to review wagers and make security recommendations.

Standard fare for the Symposium will fill the rest of the schedule. On the conference's official opening day, panels analyzing regulation, national issues, and publicity are scheduled.

Thursday, morning sessions will look at small-track issues, racing surfaces, legislation, and marketing.

In addition to the NTRA presentation on Friday morning, a panel will examine account-wagering issues as well. Considering the growth in account wagering over the past five years, that panel may be one of the more heavily attended of the week.

For the first time this year, a separate one-day conference will be held Tuesday to examine gambling machines at racetracks. The all-day conference will look at regulatory issues, the economic impact of gambling machines at tracks, and the integration of the machines into racing operations.