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Friday, July 23, 2010

Lively Discussions in Speaker Forums as National HBPA Summer Convention Gets Underway in Minneapolis

After an opening welcome cocktail reception Wednesday night, the real business of the National HBPA's 2010 summer convention got underway on Thursday, July 22. The day was highlighted by two speaker forums - "Technology and Horsemen: The New Frontier" and "The Interstate Racing and Wagering Compact and Horsemen: To Be Feared or Embraced?" The convention, hosted by the Minnesota HBPA, is being held at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Moderated by Washington HBPA President and MRW Advisory, LLC Founding Member Ron Maus, the technology panel took a look at how emerging technology is both changing the way we communicate and get news and the way we do business, with an eye to how these technologies can help the National HBPA, its affiliates, and their member horsemen do business.

First up to speak was National HBPA Director of Communications Richard E. Glover, Jr., who focused on social media and how it can help HBPA affiliates disseminate news and communicate with their members faster and more effectively. His presentation included step-by-step instructions for how to sign up for Facebook and Twitter, as well information on how and why it is important for horsemen's groups to embrace what to some is a scary new world of more interactive communication.

Glover noted that Facebook has well over 400 million members, and 50% of those members are considered active users who log into their account on any given day. Moreover, Facebook users spend over 500 billion minutes per month logged into Facebook. Meanwhile, Twitter has 190 million monthly users.

Top trainer Kenny McPeek spoke next, primarily about a horse racing iPhone application that he has been developing. The app has a great deal of potential as a tool to help grow our sport's fan base and deliver desirable content to our existing participants and fans.

Next, Keith Chamblin, Senior Vice President, Communications, for the NTRA spoke about the research the NTRA has been doing since 2007 regarding social media and web 2.0 and how they have implemented many changes to the way they interface with the public online as a result. They have recently redesigned the NTRA website (www.NTRA.com) to reflect more emphasis on the social aspect of the online experience, including a virtual horse racing game.

The Jockey Club Information Systems, Inc. Director of Marketing Susan Martin closed out the technology panel speakers. She spoke of several TJCIS/Equineline.com offerings that use technology to make it easier and often cheaper for horsemen to do business. The most exciting development she mentioned was a new iPad app they have in development that would make a sales catalog available on an iPad, including links to helpful online reports and the ability to make notes on catalog pages just the way you would with a printed catalog.

While the technology forum was full of great and interesting information, the afternoon's forum about a proposed Interstate Racing and Wagering Compact (IRWC) produced the liveliest discussions of the day. Moderated by Turfway Park President and CEO and NTRA Board of Directors Chair Bob Elliston, the panel featured a great selection of speakers with widely varying perspectives on the subject.

Association of Racing Commissioners International President & CEO Ed Martin and NYRSRWB Assistant Counsel and IRWC Steering Committee Chairman Rick Goodell primarily presented the regulators' point of view, while Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association President & CEO Alan Foreman and National HBPA Racing Compact Working Group Chair and Virginia HBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo discussed the horsemen's organization's thoughts and concerns. Also there to balance things out was compact expert Rick Masters, Special Counsel for Interstate Compacts, The Council of State Governments, who is well versed in such compacts both in and outside of the racing and gaming industry.

For more background on the proposed IRWC, read the following article that appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of The Horsemen's Journal: Efforts to Create an Interstate Racing and Wagering Compact Underway.

Speakers from all sides of the issue made a number of good points, and it was clear from the question and answer session after the speaker presentations that many of the horsemen in attendance have some concerns about the way the proposed IRWC is set up and whether horsemen will be fairly represented in the rule making process. Discussion was quite lively, and it seems likely that some modifications and/or clarifications will need to be made to the proposed compact in order for the horsemen's groups represented at the forum to be comfortable actively supporting it.

The National HBPA's Board of Directors is considering whether or not it would like to actively support the proposed IRWC compact at this time. Compact supporters are hoping for a vote in support of the IRWC before the end of this convention.

There are two more great speaker forums on tap for today - "The Future of Horse Racing & the Horse Race Wagering Product" and the highly anticipated National HBPA Medication Committee forum "Bute - 5 mcg ... To Be or Not To Be."

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