Archives for September 2015

FEDERAL TB HORSERACING INTEGRITY ACT

The Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015 (H. R. 3084) would mandate uniform medication rules across the United States and empower the United States Anti-Doping Agency to oversee drug policy and testing.  Responses to the bill from within the horse racing industry have ranged from adamantly in favor to vehemently opposed.

The advisability of passing the bill into law needs to be considered and evaluated from the outside-in perspectives of pari-mutuel customers rather than from the inside-out viewpoints of the individuals and institutions that together comprise the horse-racing industry.

Why so?  Because in horse racing, or any business, the most pivotal entity, the sine qua non, is inarguably the customer–for the palpable reason that without buyers there can’t be a sustainable enterprise.  While horses, owners, trainers, auction companies, and others are certainly essential elements, their continued existence as a critical mass is contingent on enough customers placing sufficient bets.

Yet wagering on horse racing in North America has been in a steep secular decline since it peaked in 2003, and thus the industry needs an infusion of customers and money to support the supply chain that begins with breeding farms and ends with racetracks and advance deposit wagering firms.  The supply chain has been contracting, as shown by such key barometers as the size of the foal crop, import/export trends, and number of races held.

Whether a retail customer is investing in the stock market, purchasing an automobile, or wagering on a horse race, he or she has a baseline requirement to do business with an enterprise that has a reputation for integrity, a word with synonyms like honesty, uprightness, and probity.

Put yourself in the position of a typical bettor.  Which of the following descriptions of industry oversight gives you more assurance that you are getting a fair shake for your money, that you are risking your cash on a trustworthy commercial offering?

  • A system in which individual state racing commissions formulate their own medication regulations, manage drug testing, and ascertain appropriate sanctions for violators of the rules.  In this approach, a bettor playing multiple racetracks in separate states must account for disparate rules and practices, determined and implemented to various degrees by industry insiders.  In Kentucky, for example, a sizeable majority of racing commission members do extensive business in the industry they regulate.
  • A one-size-fits-all system wherein there is uniformity in medication regulation and enforcement across the United States by an organization (the United States Anti-Doping Agency) with a proven record in world-class athletic competition and not beholden to racing interests; and an agency with the federal authority to conduct out-of-competition testing.

From a bettor’s vantage point, the more customer-centric preference, the one providing superior consumer protection, is apparent.

A Jockey Club-sponsored McKinsey & Company consumer study in 2011 found that “only 22% of the general public has a positive impression of Thoroughbred racing.”  This ominous state of affairs can’t be improved–and may be exacerbated–by the current patchwork of medication regulatory rules and procedures crafted and administered to a large degree by people inculcated with an inside-out view of horse racing.

An industry struggling from precipitous attrition in both customers and  revenues needs to do everything it can to check and reverse the stagnation…and enhancing its standing among the general public and bettors is crucial to the task.

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