August 24, 2000

Dear District and Unit Board Members in District Two:

For those who attended, the Anaheim NABC was undoubtedly a wonderful experience. Weather, facilities, and hospitality were excellent. Bridge results were variable!

Unfortunately while the final attendance of 13,712 tables was respectable, it was 13.2% (2,100 tables) below ACBL management's estimate of 15,800. ACBL failed to meet its room block at the Hilton Hotel. The financial impact of the above will hit the ACBL's bottom line hard in a year when financial results are already very poor and getting worse.

Surprise! Membership dues are rising in 2001. More about that later.

Attendance was down for a variety of reasons. Local players did not support their NABC. Parking at $10/day with no in and out privileges (unless you were a registered hotel guest) was a major factor. Regional events (except for the KO's) were down as much as 25% from estimate! I fear the same for our Toronto NABC next summer. Will our local players travel downtown to pay Canadian $20 to play in a Regional event that cost them $13 in April?

Unfortunately, my motion to experiment with promotional reduced entry fees for selected games and times (especially for the final Sunday when attendance drops dramatically) was soundly defeated by the ACBL Board of Directors. A pity.

A disturbing complaint that I heard early and often was that the host hotels were charging our players their room deposit (about US $65) if they checked out of the hotel earlier than planned! Apparently one of the two host hotels had such a policy -- ACBL management forced the other hotel to do the same! Personally, I find this appalling.

Ironically, on the final Sunday, the Marriott Hotel was trying to force some people who wanted to stay until Monday to leave or else pay $265 for Sunday night! I guess they get us coming or going.

My advice for those of you going to Birmingham is to check your dates carefully and read the ACBL fine print. Buyer beware.

  1. District 2 Stars at the Bridge Table:
  2. Major Board Decisions:
    1. Effective with the Spring, 2001 NABC, the opening night Charity Game shall be renamed the Educational Foundation Game with all net proceeds from that game going to the ACBL Educational Foundation. This amounts to about a $60,000/year increase in funds for the foundation.

      In addition, the NABC designated Charity day/session ($6.00 per table) shall be renamed the Educational Foundation day/session with all proceeds from that day/session going to the ACBL Educational Foundation. This will add about $15,000/year to the foundation.

      I supported both motions which passed 18-7 and 17-8. The Educational Foundation does excellent work in teaching and promoting the game of bridge. The foundation pays for teachers to teach students (for free) the ACBL Club Series via the School Bridge Lesson program. In Anaheim, the Foundation increased funding to support the Diamond Series as well. Other programs the Foundation sponsors includes Easybridge!, "Learn To Play Bridge" software, and the Junior Bridge Camp.

      It is important to note that ACBL is not getting out of the Charity business! The Charity Foundation will continue to raise over $200,000/year. Clubs throughout North America will continue to raise funds for charity.

    2. The other major decision involved the World Bridge Federation (WBF). The WBF is the engine behind the movement for Olympic recognition, marketing bridge world-wide, running world-wide bridge games, and running the WBF tournaments. They had requested a membership dues increase from 10 cents/member to $1.00/member effective January 1, 2002. A large chunk of that increase would have been returned to the ACBL to pay for our WBF representatives expenses as well as for marketing efforts.

      I was among the majority who did not approve of such a large increase nor did I like the funny money business where we pay large amounts and then get it back. The WBF request failed by a 15-10 vote.

      A compromise motion raising dues by 40 cents (from .10 to .50 cents) per member (excluding junior members) was then approved by a 14-11 vote. While I still have grave reservations about many of the WBF's excesses, I do not believe we can turn our backs on the world. I voted in favour.

      It is my hope that ACBL's WBF representatives will continue to work towards responsible spending of our money to support bridge around the world.

  3. Financial Woes:
    1. ACBL membership dues will increase from US $30 to $32. Corresponding increases will be made in other dues categories to preserve their current relationship to the regular annual membership dues level, to the nearest 25 cents. Carried 16-9. I voted no.

    2. A motion to increase the club sanctioned game table fee from .60 to .64 per table (last increase April 1999) was defeated 11-14. I voted no.

    3. The fee per sanctioned game shall be increased from $1.00 to $1.25 (last increase January, 1994). Carried 18-6-1. I voted no.

    4. The annual sanction fee per club sanctioned game shall be increased from $11.00 to $11.50. I voted yes. Carried 19-6.

      All of the above are effective January 1, 2001.

    5. ACBL management had budgeted a deficit of about $200,000 for 2000. It now appear that the deficit will be at least $450,000 (maybe more after the Anaheim numbers come in) due to a sharp drop in revenue from ACBL Product Sales, an unexpected charge from the NABC Housing Bureau, changes in depreciation policy, actuarial assessment regarding the ACBL pension plan, the loss of ACBL's affinity credit card program, and unfavourable fluctuation in Canadian currency.

      I am very concerned. While some items are beyond management's control, I do not see management doing what is necessary to reduce costs and improve efficiency. One item of particular concern to me is our travel agent and housing bureau costs. Management sees no need to review their contracts until Spring, 2001. I believe the ACBL is spending more than they need to. That is one reason why I voted against the dues increase. Continually raising dues is not the answer.

      Management has been asked to bring forward a break-even budget for 2001. The Fall meetings in Birmingham will not be easy for anyone.

    6. New members, retaining members. The bottom line is that as long as ACBL membership continues to decline, we will have financial difficulties. After much discussion over the course of several meetings about how to market first year members, how best to retain them, what magazines ( Better Bridge and/or Bridge Bulletin ) to send them, etc. we had concrete motions in front of us.

      At the last minute due to some parliamentary maneuvers, all motions concerning the above issues were withdrawn and no action was taken. We fiddle while Rome burns.

    7. On a more pleasant note, by an 18-7 vote we decided that Units and Districts that advertise in the Bridge Bulletin shall have their ad placed on the web site and linked to ACBL on-line at no cost to them.

  4. Items of General Interest:
    1. Except for health-related equipment or by permission of the Director-In-Charge of the tournament or event, cell phones, audible pagers or any similar communication equipment may not be operated or operable in the playing area during a session of play at NABCs. Sponsoring organizations of other ACBL-sanctioned events are strongly encouraged to adopt this policy. Carried unanimously.

    2. The United States Bridge Federation will be formed to represent the interests of United States bridge players. Carried. The three Canadian representatives appropriately abstained.

    3. Added to the ACBL Handbook of Rules and Regulations regarding unit responsibilities: "To provide equitable treatment of all sanctioned club games in good standing within the unit."

    4. Management is authorized to require, at its discretion, business between the ACBL and District and units to be conducted electronically. Carried 21-4. I voted yes.

    5. Management was authorized to vary the Bridge Bulletin page count of specific issues, but in no event will the page count go below 100 pages. Carried 24-1. I voted no.

      Currently the Bulletin is 132 pages. I view this this as one more potential reduction in members services and benefits while dues and fees continue to increase.

    6. The position of ACBL Vice President was rescinded effective January 1, 2001. Carried 13-12. I voted yes. With no disrespect to ACBL VP Jim Kirkham (he also voted to abolish!), this position with no budget, no assigned duties, and no automatic accession to being ACBL President just added one more layer of politics that we do not need.

    7. It shall be the policy of the ACBL that ACBL Life Masters from Zone II NCBOs who are delinquent in their dues or service fees shall not be eligible to write bulletin columns, give lectures or engage in similar paid or voluntary employment by the ACBL. Carried 19-6. I voted no.

      This bizarre and punitive measure made little sense to me and I was pleased that the Board of Governors overwhelmingly voted to have the ACBL Board reconsider this action. Volunteers? Writing Bulletin articles? I have always been a strong advocate of non-members paying more to play and not receiving free trips, etc. but there must be a sensible limit to this.

  5. Bridge/Tournament Issues:
    1. The ACBL Laws Commission is requested to recommend a change to Law 40 E 2 and further to interpret the Law to permit zonal organizations to designate levels of competition and events in which a participant may refer to his or her own convention card. Carried 18-7. I voted yes.

    2. Of particular interest to District 2 was a motion from the Regional Allocation Sub-Committee that Easter no longer be considered a traditional date. As you know we have been holding the " Canadian Nationals " Toronto Regional tournament that week for over 100 years! I am pleased to report that the motion was defeated 16-9 and our tournament remains protected.

    3. The categories of "Expert LM" designations were rescinded. This idea was created to provide incentives for LM's but it never caught fire. In addition, there were many implementation problems, not the least of which was management's inability to track points won in the past. However, points won in NABC+ events will still be designated as platinum points. Carried 21-4. I voted yes.

    4. The North American Collegiate Team Championships was reinstated. A full budget and program will be presented to us in Birmingham. Carried 14-11. I voted yes.

  6. A Personal Note:
  7. I hope you have all enjoyed our rather wet summer and are looking forward to a bridge filled Fall! While we expect the Birmingham NABC to be small, the facilities are reputed to be excellent and the hotel prices are exceptionally low. I know my sister Ivy and hubby Al will be attending with their golf clubs as well as their convention cards. NABCs are FUN -- if you are able to attend, I would love to see you there.

    Plans are well underway for our Toronto NABC, but fund raising remains a problem. I urge ALL of our units to get involved and participate in making our 2001 NABC a memorable and happy occasion for all our visitors. Americans love our city, the Canadian dollar is low, and we can look forward to a helluva party next summer.

    Please contact Penny Augustine if you wish to help financially or have any good ideas. We need your support. Please visit our official 2001 NABC web site at: http://www.pathcom.com/~wjh/nabc2001

    Finally, I am driving to Kingston tomorrow morning to help with the Canadian Bridge Federation Junior Trials. There are three teams of four registered to play. You can check them out as well as other Canadian news at the CBF web site at: http://www.cbf.ca . All 12 participants would make excellent Canadian representatives to the 2001 World Junior Bridge Championships which are scheduled to be held in Brazil, August 2001. It's a shame that only 6 lucky juniors will get to go. Our junior players deserve your support. They are our future.


The cooperation of all unit Presidents and Secretaries in distributing this report to their members is greatly appreciated. This report may also be viewed on my web site at:

http://www3.sympatico.ca/jonathan.st

Top 20 Masterpoint Winners From District 2 at the Anaheim NABC
 
163.71 Fred Gitelman, Toronto ON
106.25 David Grainger, Etobicoke ON
74.82 Jonathan Steinberg, Toronto ON
67.26 Josh Heller, Toronto ON
62.31 Gavin Wolpert, Thornhill ON
53.36 Daniel Lavee, Thornhill ON
53.16 Ringo P Chung, Mississauga ON
53.16 Vinay Sarin, Thornhill ON
50.02 Gloria Silverman, Toronto ON
44.29 Don Piafsky, Toronto ON
37.29 Danny Miles, Winnipeg MB
30.19 Deborah Thomas-Howie, Etobicoke ON
30.05 Herbert Whitney Jr, Toronto ON
30.05 Helen De Wild, Willowdale ON
30.05 Jonathan Edwards, Thornhill ON
30.05 Jim Barney, Toronto ON
28.85 Jim Howie, Etobicoke ON
28.32 Linda Wynston, Toronto ON
27.55 Charles Galloway, Bolton ON
27.18 Tom Buttle, Toronto ON