December 3, 1999

Dear District and Unit Board Members in District Two:

It gives me great pleasure to announce my appointments to the ACBL Goodwill Committee for the year 2000. This is a lifetime appointment, honouring players who exemplify the best of our game and promote goodwill at the bridge table.

Congratulations to our year 2000 Goodwill Committee members:

The Boston NABC was a wonderful occasion. The final table count of 12,749 was 1,000 tables over estimate, which should help our bottom line. The playing facilities and hotels were first class, the evening hospitality and food were outstanding (they NEVER ran out of food), and the city provided an abundance of eating establishments for all budgets. Congratulations to all!

The Fall meetings are where many elections and appointments are made. Here are some of the key players for 2000:

  1. Glenn Smith, St. Louis, Missouri (District 8 will be the 2000 ACBL President. I have invited him to visit us at our Toronto Regional in April, 2000. I hope we shall have the pleasure of welcoming him to our city.

  2. Jim Kirkham, San Bernardino, CA (District 22) will be the 2000 ACBL Vice President.

  3. Chip Martel will be the 2000 ACBL Honorary Member of the Year.

  4. Nadine Wood, Silver Spring, MD (District 6) was elected and Joan Gerard, White plains, N.Y. (District 3) was reelected as one of the ACBL representatives to the World Bridge Federation.

  5. The ACBL Educational Foundation elected Judy Prescott President for 2000. Jonathan Steinberg was reelected Vice President; Eugene Kales will be Treasurer. There is a link to the Foundation web site from my web site -- please visit us.

  6. Eric Kokish, was elected to the ACBL Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. It is long overdue for a Canadian player to be inducted into the ACBL Hall of Fame and it is my hope that Eric will be able to organize a lobbying campaign to accomplish this.

  1. District 2 Stars at the Bridge Table:
  2. Highlights from the Boston ACBL Board of Directors Meetings:
    1. The ACBL 2000 Budget includes price increases for Regional, Sectional, and STAC sanction fees, NABC entry fees and much more. Even so, the 2000 budget predicts a loss slightly in excess of $200,000.

    2. All penalties (the "stick") have been removed from the ACBL's Unit Membership Retention program. New financial incentives have been added to encourage unit participation.

    3. Bridge Ventures will cease activity, effective December 1, 1999. The concept and financial history will be reviewed.

    4. The "experiment" of having Tournament Directors handle the Appeals Process at NABCs below the NABC+ level has been successful and will be continued until further notice. The program will be reviewed at the Fall 2000 meetings. Vote: 22-3.

  3. Financial Matters:
  4. The ACBL's net worth reached an all-time high of $6.1 million at the end of 1998. In 1999, we appear to be heading for a deficit of approximately $300,000. The budget approved for 2000 allows for a deficit slightly in excess of $200,000.

    There are many reasons for this. The major issue is ACBL's declining membership. Therefore, the ACBL is planning major expenditures with the goal of stabilizing and increasing ACBL membership and retention. These programs, which include EASYBRIDGE and the hiring of a public relations firm, are expensive but necessary.

    Staff increases in the computer, internet, and marketing areas combined with yearly salary/cost-of-living/pension increases are expensive.

    The following increases are all effective March 1, 2000:

    1. Regional sanction fees increase from $3.70 to $4.30/table.
    2. Sectional sanction fees increase from $2.60 to $3.00/table.
    3. STAC sanction fees increase from $2.00 to $2.30/table.

    4. TD session fees will increase an additional 2.5% on top of the scheduled salary increase of 4% for a total increase of 6.5% that is charged to the tournament.

    5. Hand record fees will increase by $1.00 across the board.
    6. Tournament supply fee will increase from .75 to .85 per table.

    Effective January 1, 2000:

    1. Club Director Exam fee goes up from $15 to $20
    2. Director study packet goes up from $5 to $10

    In addition, NABC entry fees will increase $1.00 across the board effective with the 2000 Spring NABC in Cincinnati.

    There is some good news for our Canadian tournaments. The per diem paid to ACBL TD's working in Canada will be the price set by the Treasury Board of Canada. At the moment that is CDN $53.70 which converts to US $36/day. That is US $6/TD/day LESS than the current $42/day per diem.

    In the US, TDs will be paid the IRS maximum allowable per diem per day (ranges from $34 to $46 depending upon the city).

    Another positive feature for Canadians is that the exchange rate for ACBL membership dues renewals will be adjusted quarterly if the rate moves by 3 Canadian cents or more. This will protect us from overpaying if the Canadian dollar strengthens and also protect the ACBL from exchange losses if the Canadian dollar weakens.

  5. Marketing Issues:
  6. In 1999, the ACBL hired a Chief Marketing Officer. In 2000, a marketing assistant and a public relations firm will be hired. Additional staff to administer and coordinate the EASYBRIDGE program are now on board. We all hope these efforts will produce results. Here are some major programs for 2000:

    1. EASYBRIDGE!

      The EASYBRIDGE program offers tremendous potential for not only quickly generating excitement and fun for new bridge players, but also enticing them to become ACBL members and catch the masterpoint bug.

      In District 2, I am aware of Viktoria Renaud in Hamilton; Richard Fokes in London; and Flo Belford in Mississauga who are all certified Easybridge "presenters" who are starting up Easybridge classes. I am very interested in the success of these programs and would appreciate hearing from anyone who is involved or wishes to be involved in Easybridge games.

      While the ACBL and the ACBL Educational Foundation are covering part of the costs of buying the books and running Easybridge classes, they do not cover the full cost. I would urge our District and Units to get involved in this program and offer financial support.

    2. ACBL's Unit Membership Retention Program.
    3. The ACBL has no problem signing up new members. The problem is that only about 50% of them renew. From that reality, ACBL management started the Unit Membership Retention Program in 1999 along with their quarterly QUIP reports to indicate how successful we are (or are not).

      I am pleased to report that the controversial "stick" part of the program has been repealed. Units will continue to receive their membership rebates from the ACBL; however, it is obvious that the more members a unit can recruit and retain, the more money it will receive.

      Currently, units receive a rebate of $3.50/member ($2.75/Life Master). If a unit is in compliance with the ACBL's program, they will receive an additional .25/member or LM.

      Recognizing that there are many ways to be successful, management will establish performance incentives for all units. Units who meet or exceed those targets will receive an additional rebate of .25/member or LM. This is irrespective of complying with the paperwork and phone calls involved with ACBL's Unit Membership Retention program.

      Bottom Line: In 2000 all ACBL Units will receive membership rebates of at least $3.50/member ($2.75/LM) with opportunities to increase that to $3.75 ($3.00/LM) or $4.00/member ($3.25/LM).

    4. High School Bridge Lesson Series & The ACBL Educational Foundation.
    5. The High School Bridge Lesson Series originally was an idea developed by the ACBL Educational Foundation. The program was taken over by the ACBL and has become hugely successful. The ACBL pays teachers to teach students the ACBL club series lessons. The students get the lessons for free.

      Effective April 1, 2000, funding for the program will come from ACBL Educational Foundation while administration will still be handled by the ACBL. Those of us on the Foundation believe it is essential for our long term survival to keep this program in operation even if short term payoffs (ACBL membership) are unlikely.

      The Educational Foundation's raison d'etre is to promote bridge and bridge education. Besides the HSBLS, the Foundation is funding EASYBRIDGE games (20% of total cost), and jointly with the ACBL, funded Fred Gitelman's amazing software program, Learn To Play Bridge, which is now available free of charge from the ACBL web site.

      The Foundation receives the bulk of its money from the optional $2 donations that members include with their ACBL renewals. In 1999, the Millennium Pairs game contributed about $18,000 to the Foundation. Local Districts and Units can designate fund raising games in support of the Foundation. Please do so and visit the Foundation's web site (there is a link from the ACBL as well as my web site). We need your support.

  7. Bridge & Tournament Issues:
    1. Effective with the 2000/2001 event, eligibility for the NAOP Flight "B" will be 0-2000 masterpoints.

    2. Entry into masterpoint restricted and/or bracketed events at tournaments will be determined by the computer files in use at the tournament site. Players may confirm their totals with directors on site.

    3. An attempt (AGAIN!) to allow any and all defenses to natural NT openings and overcalls on the General Convention Chart was defeated 10-15. I voted with the majority. This motion would have allowed "suction" and other various defenses with no known suits. I believe our newer players should not be subjected to these difficult treatments.

      Please note that these treatments are allowed in all mid-chart and NABC+ events. As well, sponsoring organizations may elect to allow these defenses at their tournaments.

    4. By the narrowest of margins (13-12), the ACBL Board approved an experimental NABC Speedball Pairs Championship to be held next summer in Anaheim in conjunction with the 2 day NABC imp pairs. The General Convention Chart will be in effect. I was opposed. While I am in favour of "fun" events and experimentation, I believe that National events should be a serious game. To my mind, this "no time for thought" pairs event makes a mockery of our National Championships. It is a travesty.

    5. A big thank you to District 1 Board member, George Retek, who sponsored a motion, approved 15-9-1, for a new world-wide bridge game. It is being planned by the WBF and the Mind & Sports Association for late August, 2000. Proceeds from the game will benefit a charity of the ACBL's choice. The $10/table sanction fee will be divided as follows:

      • $3.00 to WBF to cover expenses
      • $3.00 to ACBL to cover expenses
      • $4.00 to ACBL Educational Foundation

  8. World Bridge Federation & International Events:
    1. The ACBL Board of Directors is requesting that the WBF reschedule their Executive Committee meetings in an effort to reduce cost to ACBL.

    2. Reimbursement for the ACBL's 5 WBF representatives was REDUCED to a maximum per diem not to exceed 9 days and payment for hotel expenses not to exceed 7 nights. Vote: 23-1-2 (abstentions).

    3. A motion that arose from the Board of Governors to reduce the number of "expenses paid" ACBL representatives to the WBF meetings from 5 to 2 was defeated 6-17-2. I voted in favour.

    4. The ACBL Board of Directors, acting as the Zonal Conference for Zone 2, approved comprehensive policies relating to Zone 2 International Junior Teams.

      The Conditions of Contest for the Zone 2 junior trials leading towards the 2001 World Junior Championship were approved. With the WBF allowing 3 teams to participate from Zone 2, it was legislated that 2 would be from the US and one from one of Bermuda, Canada, or Mexico. Canada will be invited to participate in a joint junior trial but the final decision is up to the CBF Board of Directors. Currently, a survey of all Canadian Junior players is underway asking for their preference as to when, where, and how to hold a Canadian trial.

      Two clauses I particularly approve of are:

      1. Team members are expected to be dedicated to a training process, and failure to participate in training may result in a player's being removed from a team.

      2. Every member of any US junior team will be afforded the opportunity to play the number of boards required for medal eligibility (40% of total boards played).

      The above is a reaction to USA II's silver medal award last summer in Fort Lauderdale, where one pair played only one match and thus did not qualify for a medal. I believe junior bridge, even at the highest level, is about more than just winning and I strongly support the motion passed. I have been informed that the "best US junior pair" will refuse to participate in the 2000 trials because of this regulation. If so, that will be an opportunity for a more deserving pair to experience the thrill and camaraderie of junior international competition. A team event should be played by those with team spirit.

    5. An issue I've discussed before is the dreaded spectre of drug testing. But what drugs are performance enhancing for bridge players? As the WBF continues to move towards full Olympic recognition, they have just announced that there will be random doping tests conducted at the 2000 Bermuda Bowl in January. I have asked the WBF to provide a list of substances that they will be testing for, but, to date, no satisfactory response has been received.

  9. Odds and Ends:
    1. By a 17-8 vote Bridge Ventures was ordered to cease all operations effective December 1, 1999. A Committee will study the concept and financial history of Bridge Ventures (money bridge and how it relates to the ACBL and masterpoints), reporting back to the ACBL Board at our Spring meetings in 2000.

      The current reality is that Bridge Ventures as it is currently structured and operating has had limited appeal to our players and has been neither able to secure sponsorship nor turn a profit. It must be revamped.

    2. A unit is now allowed to elect their officers either by a vote of the general membership or by the unit board.

    3. Evening starting times for Regional and NABC+ events in Anaheim (Summer, 2000) shall be 7:30pm. The starting times in Boston were 1 and 7:30, similar to Vancouver earlier this year. I believe this is what our membership wants and I hope that in Toronto in 2001 we will have similar starting times.

      A survey was distributed at the Boston NABC asking for players preferences. I predict that the results will be overwhelmingly in favour of the earlier (7:30 as opposed to 8 PM) start. This allows everyone to finish a half hour earlier and thus have more time to return home by public transportation or to stay and enjoy the late night hospitality. Even more important is that having 2 and a half to 3 hours between sessions is just TOO LONG for the vast majority of our players.

    4. Should the Daily Bulletin at NABCs print ALL section placings? At the request of the Board of Governors, the Board approved this by a 15-10 vote. As a result, there was less space devoted to bridge stories, photos, Appeals Cases, etc. Alternatively, the ACBL could do both, but that would entail an extra cost of $4,000 per NABC.

      A survey was done in Boston, the results of which are not yet known. I voted to keep the bridge stories. I do not believe that page after page of small print section placings is what the majority of players who attend an NABC want to read.

    5. The ACBL approved the following NABC locations:

      • Summer 2004 - New York City
      • Fall 2006 - Honolulu, Hawaii
      • Fall 2007 - San Francisco, California

    6. Ken Warren, player #O865216, was suspended for 5 years effective November 20, 1999 and will be on permanent ACBL probation thereafter. This was the sanction imposed by the ACBL's Ethical Oversight Committee. There will be an automatic review of the above sanction by the ACBL Appeals and Charges Committee at the Spring 2000 meetings. There is also the possibility of an appeal by either side within 30 days of the sanction (until December 20, 1999).

      Update: December 19, 1999: An appeal has been filed by one or both sides. It will most likely be heard at the Spring 2000 NABC in Cincinnati.

  10. A Personal Note:
  11. The holiday season has arrived and I wish all of you a peaceful and healthy start to the new Millennium! For the mathematicians among us, I'll be wishing you a happy new millennium again next year!

    Once again, I have the privilege of being NPC of a Canadian team which will be attending the 8th International Youth Bridge Festival in Holland, and I shall be overseas from January 1-10, 2000. This is a young team of players from Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal who are thrilled to be going. We have raised enough money to fully cover our expenses and we thank all of you who have helped us, especially ACBL Units 166, 192, and 151, Doubles Bridge Club in Toronto, CBF, and the many individual donations. Thank you.

    The downside is that I will be unable to greet you at our fabulous January Toronto Sectional at the Royal York Hotel, the largest 3 day sectional in North America. Mark it in your calendar: January 7-9, 2000. A great way to start the New Year and New Century!

    I look forward to seeing all of you at the bridge table in 2000.


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 home page at:

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