by Thoroughbred Idea Foundation
Editor's note: The following open letter to the industry was submitted by the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, a think tank and advocacy group which aims to improve the sport of Thoroughbred racing for all stakeholders.
The passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) would signal a prominent turning point for Thoroughbred racing in America.
Regardless of where one has stood on the merits of the legislation over the years, its passage will bring to an end a generation of discord between industry participants, enabling our greater industry the opportunity to focus on long-ignored advancements to better secure the sustainability of horse racing.
At its heart, racing exists because of horse owners and breeders investing in Thoroughbreds and horseplayers wagering on them. Policies which hinder participation, of horseplayers or through ownership, stunt industry growth, and are in opposition to the mission of the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, which seeks to grow participation through these two key groups. We want racing's overall “pie” to grow, but without horse owners and horseplayers voluntarily choosing to participate in the sport, racing would be would be a shell of itself.
The HISA will yield a federally recognized organization to facilitate doping control within the sport while bringing more constituencies under the regulatory fold. Upon its passage, substantial planning and execution will still be required, including identifying the funding mechanism for individual states' participation in HISA-created programs. The path forward to paying for these programs remains unclear.
In some states, wagering is a main source of funding for racing commissions to regulate the sport. Should HISA programs increase costs to states–a reasonable expectation–it is possible they, in concert with other stakeholder groups, could turn to wagering channels to increase revenues.
This would be a gross miscalculation.
While HISA has earned support because of the undoubted need for racing to be proactive in maintaining its social license to operate, the programs associated with the bill should not be built on the backs of horseplayers.
The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation advocates for sound policies which encourage wagering, racing's most sustainable source of funding. These policies include reducing bet pricing, modernizing wagering technology and integrity measures, increased transparency and reporting standards as well as introducing fixed-odds betting to complement pari-mutuel wagering.
Increasing costs to horseplayers is a counterproductive measure for the industry, and thus, any increases in bet pricing to pay for the programs associated with the HISA should be a non-starter.