PORTLAND, OR, November 19, 2014--Beginning December 8 for four days, racing's biggest movers and shakers will gather at the 41st Annual Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming in Tucson, Arizona.

The annual pilgrimage has become the place for industry stakeholders to keep in touch with each other, swap a little gossip, and get a sense of how the industry is tracking as a whole.

This will be my 10th trip to the great American Southwest, a journey I look forward to at the end of each year for the colorful characters one meets while congregating at the hotel bar each night, talking about the year that was.

It’s great to see that behind the scenes of racing and gaming stand people who are trying to insure the industry continues to tick.

It’s a place where companies can showcase anything the industry requires, from new betting software platforms, to television cameras, to racetrack surfaces.

Although the exhibitors have got smaller over the years, attendance at the seminars has remained very strong as there's always something new to discuss each year, always something new to take away, hangovers notwithstanding.

This year, the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program has received major sponsorship from huge industry player The Stronach Group, and Sportech Racing and Digital, our tote providers at 123bet.com.

Our company is proud to be amongst the smaller sponsors getting behind this initiative.

Most of the major tote companies will be there competing for business, securing track deals over dinner and cocktails. How civilized; isn't that the way all business meetings should be conducted?

As one might expect, the biggest wheelers and dealers are conducting their business on the golf course and great things can happen when all these people and ideas come together.

The Race Track Industry Program (RTIP) has gained worldwide recognition since its inception in 1974. The Symposium attracts a wide range of attendees representing Thoroughbred, Standardbred, American Quarter Horse, Greyhound, and Racino interests from all over the world.

The focus of the conference is to include cutting-edge trends and issues of importance to the pari-mutuel industry, including simulcasting, account wagering, marketing, track surfaces, casino gaming, human and animal health issues, operations, new technologies and regulation; a full lid.

Symposium speakers and panel sessions include racing and gaming leaders, as well as specialists from outside the field. The broad cross-section of participants makes the confab the largest industry-wide conference in the world.

It all started in the early 1970’s when a group spearheaded by the late Frank Vessels Jr. of Los Alamitos Race Course conceived the idea of a collegiate program to train young men and women to become racing's future leaders.

With a group that would become today's Association of Racing Commissioners International, a decision was made that the program be located in a state with year-round racing and at a land grant institution.

Many universities were offered the opportunity but none expressed genuine interest until U of A's College of Agriculture consented to try it on a trial basis for five years.

The late Dr. Darrel S. Metcalfe, who became Dean of the College of Agriculture, outlined a financial plan that forced the racing industry to make a commitment to provide funding.

Vessels, President of the American Quarter Horse Association at the time, enlisted resources from the AQHA racing department to help get the program started.

After receiving financial commitments from Los Alamitos, the AQHA, the NASRC, the latter-day American Greyhound Racing group, classes began in the Animal Science Department in January of '74.

As one might expect, the program began very modestly with about 15 students, a curriculum that included three classes, with no text books and little chance given for success.

By 1977, enrollment was up to about 25 students, a fourth subject was added and two successful programs were launched; internships in which students received on-the-job training, and an annual seminar, a symposium that would bring industry leaders to campus for an exchange of ideas from which students might derive benefit.

That first year 45 industry people attended; the following year the seminar was expanded to multiple topics that attracted 185 attendees. The RTIP had begun lengthening its stride.

The current Advisory Council continues to direct and support the program while identifying long-range goals that the RTIP might help reach.

The program now gets broad funding support, contributions coming from racing trade organizations, racing commissions, breed registries, service organizations, individuals, alumni and the private sector, all helping to ensure that the program remains on solid financial footing.

As the RTIP has grown in size and scope, the staff has expanded from a single instructor to four, with an administrative assistant, a marketing specialist, and a number of student office employees.

Given the events of 2014, this year's symposium figures to be a lively one, indeed. I can hardly wait to get this session started.