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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Adding Bettor Directors to the USTA?

The United States Trotting Association does a great job for what they are chartered to do; to be the breed registry of the standardbred industry. The problem is the USTA is failing in promoting the business to make it more desirable for the customer.  Why is that?  If you listened to the Sunday web broadacast of the directors, you relize the problem with the USTA is it basically is a trade organization for breeders, trainers, and owners.  Their mission is to promote the standardbreds and keep track of ownership and the records of the breed.  They have model rules, but with the exception of a few fairs, these rules are advisory.  Yes, this year they are introducing a couple of initiatives, guaranteed pools for some exotic wagers, and the creation of an electronic newsletter to be sent to individuals on email lists of tracks.  But for the most part, the goal of the USTA is to look out for its members and not the wagering public; and this is fine.  Let's call the USTA what it is, a trade group organization.

But that is the problem with the USTA.  The directors; horsemen, owners, track representatives, and owners are the ones who vote on issues.  I would challenge any director of the USTA to tell the wagering public what rule has been passed by the organization which can be considered pro-customer and what year it passed.  Fair start rule?  Nope, that would mean refunding money and eliminate commissions for horsemen and track operators when a horse didn't make the start.  Probably the last pro-customer initiative the USTA passed was the standardization of color pads for horses. 

I can go into detail as to how big the disconnect seems to be, but quite honestly, there is no sense to it.  As long as the USTA doesn't seriously consider the interests of the fans/bettors the disconnect will remain.  It is good that the USTA is planning on surveying fans, but if the response to the survey is decided upon by the same people who seem to disregard the bettor's needs now, I am not sure what good it will do.

While the USTA currently has too many officers already, perhaps it is time to add a new class of officer to each district; a gambler.  The requirement would be the gambler would have to be a member of the USTA and would need to be solely classified as a gambler/fan; can't own horses or otherwise participate in the industry.  There could be one nationwide election for gambler directors and they would get to vote for one candidate per district.  This would permit the gambler to sit at the table at district and annual meetings with the ability to vote.  Granted, they would have a minority voice when compared to all the other classes of directors, but at an annual meeting the gamblers could form a significant block to make sure the gambler's agenda was heard.  For the most part  owners, breeders, and horsemen would have their ability to proceed with their own agenda, but if an issue came up as anti-gambler or pro-gambler, the fifteen gambler directors (if you consider 2A and 2B separate districts) could make sure their case was heard and if necessary, vote as a block in an attempt to stop anti-gambler or promote gambler friendly proposals.

Make no mistake, this would mean the USTA would no longer by a trade organization; it would become a organization of all stakeholders of  harness racing.  Perhaps, this is just what the industry needs. 

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