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Kevin Smith

Horsemen's Group Considers Offshore Betting

17 July 2003

The National Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association's president is recommending a move that could be seen as radical to some but is designed to do what the group's name implies -- protect the interests of local horsemen.

The group's president, John Roark, indicated during a board of directors' meeting earlier this month that the NHBPA should explore all options to determine if it would be in the group's best interest to establish on offshore wagering hub.

Roark told IGN that the issue would be discussed during a strategic planning session as part of an executive committee meeting in late September. He is looking into the issue because of rising concerns over racing signals from the United States being used for simulcast wagering in other countries without those countries paying royalties fees to the various horsemen's groups.

"The handle continues to rise but our purses continue to decline or remain stagnant," Roark said.

Roark said the issue isn't so much a piracy one, since many of the countries don't have laws making it illegal to use the racing signals, but horsemen's groups like the NHBPA are still losing revenue from the "leakage" of the signals.

There are two ways to stop the damage being done from the leakage, according to Roark.

"You can try to get them in the courthouse and go through legal channels," Roark, a lawyer by trade, said. "But considering you are dealing with companies in offshore jurisdictions, that could be hard to do."

So Roark would like to see the NHBPA take up the old adage of "if you can't beat them join them."

"We could set up shop down there and essentially compete head-to-head with them and recoup as much of our lost revenue as possible," he said. "We certainly won't dominate no matter where we go or be the only ones in business, but if we have good partners and the backing of the industry we could become a force."

Roark wouldn’t comment exactly on what companies he has spoken to but he indicated that several betting companies that have experience in the online arena have expressed interest already in helping the NHBPA establish the offshore betting hub.

Some logical partners for the group could include Churchill Downs Inc., Magna Entertainment, TVG, and even

The NHBPA could be an attractive partner for a company operating offshore interactive wagering facilities. The group is a recognized "horsemen's association," which is required to have agreements in place with any wagering operation as part of the Interstate Horseracing Act.

This isn't the first time the NHBPA has looked into the issue of simulcasting. In February the group published a white paper on the issue in which a great deal of focus was given to the lost revenue from groups who use signals without authorization or agreements in place with horsemen's groups.

Since the idea of an offshore hub has made its way through racing circles, Roark has gotten good feedback.

"There might be some people that are opposed to it, but so far I have only heard from those that are supportive of the idea," he said. "This isn't to say it is a done deal either. We just wanted to get the idea out there and get people to start thinking about it and create some dialogue."

Horsemen's Group Considers Offshore Betting is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith