February 2, 2014, California ~ Special by Pamela Burton
The Race Track Industry Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson is unique in the United States. Launched in 1974, the program known as RTIP offers a Bachelor of Science and Masters Degree program specific to the pari-mutuel racing industry.
This professional development of racing executives, officials, journalists, and handicappers has taken the support and knowledge of racing off trackside and brought it into the classroom and into the reach of many who wish for a degree and professional career.
Director of RTIP, Doug Reed, is also proud of the Executive in Residence program, which each year invites a foreign guest to learn about North American racetrack procedures and share their knowledge. In 2013, Yoongsil “Tony” Cho from Korea was the Executive in Residence. ”It is very fruitful for them in every way to come, including making contacts in the industry,” said Reed. “They also lecture to our students about their racing programs.”
Now in its 40th year, the RTIP hosts one of the industry’s largest annual racing conferences, the Global Symposium on Racing & Gaming. As part of their curriculum, RTIP students mix with top professionals in the racing industry, many of whom are alumni. Not to underestimate the international connection, the 2013 Conference included 20% International attendees from six continents.
The December 2013 Symposium guest panel included Jay Hickey, President of the American Horse Council; Matt Bernier, handicapper and cast member of the new reality show entitled “Horseplayers”; Barry Irwin, CEO of Team Valor International; Ray Paulick, Publisher of the Paulick Report; RTIP alumnae, Peter Rotondo, VP of Media & Entertainment Breeders’ Cup Limited; and Amy Zimmerman, Executive Producer, HRTV. These and other distinguished speakers presented current topics such as: Handicapping Contests – Are They an Area of Real Growth in the Racing Industry, Marketability of Simulcast Products for the International Audience, International Wagering, and Current Legal and Policy Issues in Racing and Gaming.
Dennis Miller, Alameda County Fair Racing Publicist, shared a few notes on the Symposium:
- Christopher Key, the relatively new CEO of the New York Racing Association, was the keynote speaker and kicked off the week with some comments about the direction of NYRA in regards to customer service, in many respects the underlying theme of the week.”
- The second segment included some of the cast of the new reality series called Horseplayers, a show that follows a group of professional handicappers as they try to qualify for the National Handicapping Championships in Las Vegas.
- New Ways to Look at Numbers, gave information on the collection of data of gaming customers with statistics from Dave Siegel, the President of TrackMaster.
- The Mark Kaufman Workshop about Pro-Active and Re-Active Reporting asked, how can racing control the message instead of the message controlling us?
- The final panel of the first day – easily the best day of the week – was about handicapping contests and if they are part of the growth of the industry.
- Two of the more entertaining speakers of the event were Vin Narayanan and Hai Ng, who spoke on Horse Racing and Social Gaming and how it relates to social media today.
- Muckraking Journalism as a Positive Force was inspirational. Barry Irwin, a former journalist and current President of Team Valor, and Ray Paulick, the Publisher of the Paulick Report, spoke of reporting the ugly secrets relating to cheating in horse racing. For many years, the press turned away from a lot of the garbage going on behind the scenes in the industry but through the hard work of some journalists, much has been exposed.
- Jay Hickey, President of the American Horse Council, topped off the panel regarding Current Legal and Policy Issues in Racing and Gaming.
“At the end of the symposium, you walked away with a good feeling about our sport of horse racing,” Miller concluded. “There are a large group of powerful people at work to make the sport better and if we all keep fighting, we will move forward.”
Doug Reed contributed some closing thoughts to Horsereporter on the Symposium and the future of racetracks:
“We’ve put a heavy focus on international simulcast wagering in the seminar. The French PMU is one of the more progressive systems for simulcast.”
On handicapping contests he noted: “These contests are a growth area and an important topic to create new customers and generate sales. They are an outgrowth of the TV reality shows and poker TV.”
Commenting on the Track Management side: “Horse racing needs a major correction and we must invest in that. There’s a lot of do to create better facilities and how to view the races.”
On race days and attendance: “Many people still attend major racing event days. There are 50,000 races in the USA and you can bet on these from anywhere and anytime. By contrast, Hong Kong has only 80 days of racing all year. Simply, there is too much supply for the demand.”
A new and exciting project has come into the hands of the University. Ruth “Bazy” McCormick Tankersley, noted Arabian horse breeder, recently bequeathed her Arabian Breeding Farm outside of Tucson to the University. Discussion is ongoing as to what might be accomplished with this gift, with the possible option to create a veterinary school at the site.
The 2014 Global Symposium on Racing & Gaming will be held December 8-11 at the Westin La Paloma Resort in Tucson, Arizona.
* Editor’s Note ~As foal crops and the number of races have decreased in the USA, the purses have increased. In 1988, 45,258 new Thoroughbred foals were born – perhaps to look at the future of 71,000 races with an average purse per starter of $8,152. In 2012, the TB foal crop was only 22,500 but the average purse was $19,671 per starter. * Equibase Company LLC
Race Track Industry Program Website: http://ua-rtip.org/future_students