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Kansas City Board of Governors Meeting

The KC Board of Governors meeting was a rather quiet, tame affair.  It was good to see so many first time attendees.  The new Chair, Richard Popper conducted the meeting in a very professional and efficient manner. He appears to do his homework, follow-up on issues, and should continue to do an outstanding job.

Outgoing CEO Robert Hartman was somewhat subdued and gave a much shorter report than usual.  He did mention the Summer Toronto NABC housing fiasco where the first three hotels are mostly sold-out, four months before the NABC.  A fourth hotel, the Hyatt, has been added at a price of $184 Canadian ($137 US).  It is about a 10 minute walk to the playing area.

The ACBL continues to negotiate with a stunning five star "Delta by Marriott" hotel very close to the convention center, connected underground to Union station, subway, Pearson airport express.  Early reports had a price of $209 Canadian ($155 US) but apparently negotiations are ongoing.  Watch the ACBL Toronto NABC site/Housing for updates.

The final 2016 numbers came in at $180,000 lower than the predicted gain of $701,051.  The Orlando NABC was down 15-20% from various estimates. Still made a profit but less than expected.  Due to lower NABC attendance estimates, the 2017 forecast has been reduced from a profit of $234,000 to $142,000.  But the bottom line is that the ACBL is slowly recovering from the ACBL Score and other financial setbacks.

The ACBL is experimenting with new plastic cards which may solve the ongoing issues with dirty playing cards.

League Counsel reported on ongoing litigation, most notably former District Director Bruce Blakely's June, 2016 civil lawsuit asking for damages that may be in excess of $2 Million!  The other ongoing case involves Michael Schreiber who filed a complaint in October, 2015.  All lawsuits against the ACBL go to its Insurance company to defend.  I've often wondered: does anyone know how many people live long enough before a lawsuit is resolved?  The Board of Governors gets regular updates at each Board of Governors meeting. 

The Board of Directors rejected the Board of Governors motion to move the Fall 2018 Board of Directors meeting out of Hawaii.  The savings would be (depending upon different estimates) between $50 and $75,000).  Only District 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16 and 24 voted in favour of this sensible, cost saving measure. It was defeated.

ACBL President Bob Heller went to great lengths to inform us of cost savings measure the Board of Directors has implemented (one must justify the free vacation to Hawaii) including:  1) A three day (instead of 4) meeting here in KC. Estimated savings: $20,000.  In Toronto this summer the Board will meet on Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat. Board members will be working, not playing bridge during the first NABC event. This saves thousands of dollars in fewer room nights and per diem required.  In San Diego at the Fall NABC the Board will work over the Thanksgiving holiday.  The Board of Governors meeting will be moved from Sunday morning to Saturday morning.  This will result in one less night of free hotel rooms for ACBL Board members who get a free hotel room and per diem thru the Board of Governors meeting.  Moving it up one day is good.

The Board of Directors rejected the Board of Governors motion to rescind the draconian and odious NABC fees per player rather than per event.  Only Districts 1, 2, and 23 voted in favour.  Once again I moved to reconsider and once again it will go back to the ACBL Board of Directors for review.

We were told the ACBL can not "afford" the $65,000 in extra revenue generated by charging 5 and 6 person KO team and NABC multi-day Swiss events different amounts of money.  For example a 4 person team pays $100; 5 person team $125; 6 person team $150.  This is so unfair on so many grounds.  For example, in the 3 day NAST, only 25% of the field will make the overalls.  So why should everyone pay extra?  A pure cash grab by the ACBL which only makes people who are unable to play every session think twice about playing at all.

It was reported on Bridge Winners (based on ACBL 2015 tax reporting) that the CEO received compensation of $294,000. Part time League Counsel $135,000.  Frankly, I think they ACBL can afford to do quite a bit but there seems to be an attack on NABC players.  Almost a deliberate effort to ensure attendance continues to fall.

Consider: the ACBL Bridge Bulletin by itself is surely worth at least $5 an issue.  Twelve issues equals $60. Far more than a 1 year ACBL membership -- one of the great bargains of our time.  Just a $1 dollar increase in yearly dues brings in $165,000.  Simple.  But instead the ACBL continues to make NABC unaffordable for the few remaining players who attend them.  Shouldn't the ACBL be doing everything they can to make NABCs affordable?  To attract members to attend the three (or at least one of them per year) North American Bridge Championships.  Instead hotels sell out months in advance, entry fees keep rising and now the odious charge per player, rather than per event.  What exactly is the ACBL Board trying to achieve?

Almost 100% of recommendations from the ACBL Board of Governors are rejected by the ACBL Board of Directors.  But the pretense that the Board of Governors has a useful role continues...

The KC Open discussion post mentioned the lack of a two Saturday/Sunday KO.  I spoke with DIC Steve Bates who told me there hasn't been a weekend KO on the Spring NABC schedule since 2010.  There are compact KOs every other day alternating with two day KOs.  Perhaps with declining attendance, the numbers don't justify more KOs.  Perhaps a better schedule and more affordable NABCs would reverse the downward trend. 

It was reported that progress is being made on replacing ACBL Score with a 3rd party scoring engine and ACBL owned masterpoint engine.  A May alpha test in planned.  An upgraded ACBL Score 8.1 is being released on April 1 to reflect new membership fees.  Technology marches on...

In 2016 total tournament attendance declined by 3% with the biggest drop being a 5% decline in Regional table count.

The ACBL has hired a new Marketing Director, Dan Storch.  Positions remaining vacant include a Director of Field Operations, Field Supervisors for District 6, District 7, District 16/17, a National ACBL Recorder, and a Developer (Full Stack or Web).

The CEO Search Committee is underway.  If you know anyone who might be interested in the job, please let them know.  The Board has budgeted a contingency $115,000 which may be required if a head hunter firm is hired to find qualified candidates.

Still too early for final numbers but attendance in KC is on track to be in the 8,500 to 8,800 table range.

Finally, I was told that there is a forum reserved just for members of the ACBL Board of Governors on Bridge Winners.  My technological skills being somewhat limited, can anyone tell me how to find it and register?

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