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Proposed $22 Million Tour Long on Promises, Short on Details
Dec 8, 2007, 5:20 PM

The director of a fledgling, multimillion-dollar pro pool tour has a too-good-to-be-true pitch for players that unfortunately raises more questions at the moment than it answers.

Tour organizers say that they have commitments for $22 million in prize money over the first 22-stop season — set to begin in October 2008 — provided entirely by an anonymous group of private investors who have no connection to the billiard industry.

The tour is currently named the North American Confederation of Professional Billiards Association, although organizers say they are not aligned with any other groups. Other head-scratching details include a $2,500 membership fee for each of the tour’s projected 128 members and $500-per-event entry fees, although all of the prize money and operating expenses allegedly will be covered by the anonymous investors.

““Nothing worth having is free,” said Tim Dennis, director of operations for the NACPBA.

Billiards Digest conducted an interview with Dennis on Dec. 6, shortly after the appearance of the NACPBA’s new web site created a flurry of postings across online pool forums.

While confirming most of the site’s claims, including the stratospheric prize money, Dennis would not comment on many core questions involving tour financing or the long-term business goals of the mysterious group of investors. Many details would be revealed in mid-December and in an official kick-off announcement in February, although the private investors would remain anonymous for the foreseeable future, he said.

In light of the recent implosion of the International Pool Tour, many players likely will want to know more about the source of the money and will require proof of its availability. Dennis said that the tour would provide convincing evidence of the funds, but such a process wouldn’t be revealed until February.

Asked how the tour would earn the trust of players without revealing their benefactors, Dennis said, “Once the money is verifiable in the bank, who really gives a damn where it came from? That’s my approach to that. … To be quite honest, if some people have trouble with that, that’s their problem.”

According to Dennis, the overall goal of the tour is to improve the status, visibility and overall public perception of cue sports. A key element of that strategy is found in the NACPBA’s player-centric mission statement: “… to provide the professional pool player with an avenue to pursue his chosen profession and earn the money and respect afforded every other professional athlete and to further provide a solid path for the amateur aspiring to become pro.”

The tour would be unlike just about any in history, featuring four different disciplines: 9-ball, one-pocket, 8-ball and straight pool. The games would be split between the 22 regular season stops, which have been scheduled between the weekends of Oct. 7-10 and April 29-May 2. Each event likely will be held in a different city and feature $1 million in prize money for the top 64 players.

While the event dates listed on the Web sites are set in stone, Dennis said, the group had only secured nine of the 22 venues as of Dec. 6. Dennis emphasized that the events would be held in convention centers and exhibit halls, because casinos — a much more common venue for pool events — projected the wrong image.

“This is about the image, and the image comes first,” he said. Although casinos often offer facilities to pool events for free or at a reduced cost, “we’ll choose to spend the money [for non-casino venues].”

The investors have committed funds for the tour’s first three years, Dennis said. The benefactors essentially will be involved in a “research and development” project over that time. “They are researching the ability to expand the markets in pool, and that is all I can say about that,” he said.

Dennis, hailing from the Atlanta area, also wouldn’t reveal much about his relationship to the private group. He referred to himself as a former semi-pro player with 40 years experience around the game, although with no experience in the billiard industry.

Under the current payout plan, the bottom 64 players at each stop would not cash. Dennis expressed surprise at the suggestion that the tour might have trouble keeping a full field if players were forced to pay entry fees and travel and lodging expenses for 22 stops in different cities, while faced with the 50-50 proposition of leaving penniless.

“I don’t have an explanation or a solution for the 64 who don’t make a lot of money, but the top 64 players will make $100,000 minimum [over 22 stops],” he said.

The NACPBA currently is taking applications for tour membership on its web site, www.nacpba.com. Players can apply until March 1, when the tour would begin considering the applications, Dennis said,

Players would not be asked to pay the $2,500 membership fee until after receiving an acceptance notice for membership, he said. The membership fees and event-entry fees likely would be redirected to help the players in some way, but “we haven’t made the final determination,” he said.