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Use Of Tech Discussed At USTA Meetings

Published: March 11, 2019 1:47 pm ET

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One of the primary themes of the 2019 U.S. Trotting Association’s (USTA) Board of Director’s Annual Meeting has been the importance of the use of technology.

In Sunday’s (March 10) opening general session, USTA President Russell Williams’ pre-recorded TED talk-style presentation utilizing green room technology with an impressive array of video, photos and graphics was the highlight of the day.

Williams began by giving a brief historical perspective on the organization’s business model, how it compiled the rules of harness racing and grew to be able to accommodate the large amount of data that pari-mutuel wagering generated.

He discussed the difference between ‘action’ based gaming, like slots, and ‘decision’ based gambling, like handicapping, and noted that some decision-based games have wide exposure online.

“Even though online gamers and horseplayers enjoy similar forms of decision-based play, online gamers do not come to racetracks to seek recreation,” said Williams. “They must be reached online and presented with racing-based products that will attract them.

“As an industry, we should determine the characteristics of these games that attract internet consumers and emulate those characteristics in new racing-based products that can be offered on the internet. That’s where our future horseplayers and fans reside. To find them, we will have to use marketing.”

Williams explained that shifting to a marketing orientation would fit well with the USTA business model but posed the question to the directors whether the organization needs to do more.

“Does the USTA have a role to play as a center for planning a unified strategic effort that would attain these goals?” he asked.

He cited the wealth of talent and experience on the USTA Board of Directors and called on them to work together cooperatively to maximize the benefit of all that talent.

Williams concluded by urging the board to address the issues facing harness racing with a unified approach.

“All we have to do is check our competitive tendencies at the front desk, and cooperate in using the USTA’s time-honoured business model,” Williams explained. “Identify a significant need within the industry, assemble best practices for addressing that need, formulate a plan at the association level, and execute the plan industry-wide. If we use these skills to adapt to changes that are inevitable, we will survive and prosper.”

Also during the session, USTA Chairman Ivan Axelrod emphasized the need to attract more interest in wagering on harness racing, especially with all of the ongoing changes in gaming and sports betting, that would, in turn, result in bringing more owners into the sport.

“We need to attract more gamblers as a way to attract new owners,” he said. “That’s how I became an owner.”

Axelrod also noted the trends of increasing purses and smaller fields, and explained that while this allows racing participants to race for more money, the sport is losing bettors due to the lack of value in mutuel payouts.

He urged directors to be leaders, to encourage tracks in their districts to put on a better
show and to find out what their customers want.

USTA Vice President and CEO Mike Tanner yielded most of his time to USTA Vice Chairman Don Marean from District 9, who gave a detailed account of how he worked in his role as a legislator to defeat legislation that would have revised the law to divert significant funds away from the harness racing industry in Maine.

Subcommittee reports were given by directors Steve McCoy (Board Protocol), Joe Faraldo (Harness Racing Medication Collaborative), Mark Loewe (Call to Action) and Gabe Wand (Youth Leadership Development).

David Reid, president of the Standardbred Transition Alliance, gave an informative presentation on the mission, goals and next steps for the organization.

Five new directors were welcomed to the Board, Casey Leonard (District 5), Chris Antonacci (District 6), Tom Leasure (District 7), Cameron Haughton (District 8A) and Lenny Calderone (District 9).

With all running unopposed, the current slate of USTA officers were reelected to new terms.


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