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Following six years of legislative effort, Congressmen Paul D. Tonko and Andy Barr’s bipartisan national horse racing reform bill, H.R. 1754, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, passed the US House of Representatives on Tuesday. The long-awaited bill would designate the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority to design and implement uniform national horse racing medication and racetrack safety standards.
Congressman Tonko said:
Our Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act puts the health and well-being of our equine athletes and jockeys firmly at the center of the sport, and delivers commonsense medication and track safety standards that will lift this noble sport to higher standards of integrity and safety. These long-overdue reforms will help restore public trust in the sport and put it on a path to a long and vital future, supporting countless jobs and driving economic activity in communities across our nation. I thank my longtime collaborator and friend, Congressman Barr, for leading with me in this effort to restore integrity to this sport of kings. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to advance their companion legislation without delay and deliver it swiftly to the President to sign into law.
Hundreds of horses have broken down during races each year in the US resulting in nearly ten fatalities per week over the past five years, according to The Jockey Club’s equine injury database. That number excludes fatalities that occur during training responsibilities. An overreliance on performance-enhancing drugs has contributed to this staggering death toll. one that far exceeds that of other racing jurisdictions around the world.
The recent federal indictments of 27 trainers and veterinarian, “all involved in the cruel and systematic doping of racehorses,” according to US Attorney Geoffrey Berman has further underscored the culture of drug use that permeates professional horseracing and the dire need for reform. One of the leading trainers at Penn National Race Course testified in US federal court, “almost everybody” dopes their horses in order to win, I would estimate “95% to 98%.”
The bill will establish the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, a private and independent organization that would be responsible for implementing anti-doping medication and racetrack safety programs. The new drug control program would be enforced by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the same entity appointed to handle drug testing for all US Olympic athletes.
The authority would also be responsible for:
The Authority will be governed by a Board of Directors consisting of nine members. Five of those members will be independent of the industry, and four members will be experts from the following sectors of the industry: owners and breeders, trainers, racetracks, veterinarians, state racing commissions, and jockeys. Assisting with the development of these programs, the Board will establish an anti-doping and medication control standing committee and a racetrack safety standing committee, both controlled by independent members outside the industry. All independent members of the Board and standing committees will be subject to strict conflict-of-interest standards.
Most obviously, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act was instituted and primarily acted upon for the necessary safety, health, and welfare of all horses participating in the sport. However, thoroughbred racing is and has always been for decades a wagering sport. It also importantly reinforces integrity in the minds of the betting public that all entries remain in every race on a level and fair playing surface. The outstanding benefits should be evident immediately on the track.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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