There's plenty to talk about in racing these days, and NTRA CEO Alex Waldrop joined the TDN Writers' Room presented by Keeneland Wednesday morning to dig into a good deal of the sport's most pressing topics. Calling in via Zoom as the Green Group Guest of the Week, Waldrop talked about how to capitalize and sustain the positive handle trends of the past year, how to pay for the groundbreaking Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, what movement he expects on H-2B visas with a new administration and more.
“Looking back over the last quarter and even the last half of last year, we were trending five, six, seven percent up over the prior year,” Waldrop said of the increase in handle the sport has seen. “So those trends are very positive. I do think they are related to the fact that new people are coming into the business. They're seeing horse racing as a viable option for the first time. I think that is attributable to a lot of the marketing dollars that were spent in 2020 to get eyeballs on our racing for the first time. And I think that's the way we keep this going. We continue to show our races on television, get more people in front of TV sets, mobile screens, all the distribution channels that we have out there, which are many now and are growing. That's the way to continue to grow.”
“Another way that I think we have to look at in 2021 is to get on more sports betting platforms,” he continued. “Sports betting is spreading across the country. It's a huge and growing business. If we can just get 5% of the number of people who are now betting on these mobile sports betting apps, that would be a huge win for horse racing. And I think in 2021, this is the year to really focus on what we can do to to piggyback on the success of sports betting in this country. To grow our visibility even greater.”
Asked about the tricky issue of funding HISA, Waldrop said that replacing the inefficiencies of racing's current patchwork regulation system will lead to savings on its own.
“HISA and the Authority, is all about centralizing the administration of medication control and racing safety matters. Putting it into one office. There will be significant savings. There'll be efficiencies when you compare costs that we now have for 30 state agencies,” he said. “I think 10 years ago we were spending almost $30 million a year on post race drug testing. That's an astronomical number. I don't think people realized we were spending that much money on drug testing. We're spending more than that now under the 30 state agencies. The second thing to remember is that HISA contemplates a broader-based and more equitable contribution from all industry participants, so not just one group or one tax will be paying for the costs of regulation.”
Elsewhere on the show, the writers reacted to a strong weekend of stakes at Fair Grounds, highlighted some key points from last week's exclusive interview with USADA CEO Travis Tygart and, in the West Point Thoroughbreds news segment, analyzed the passage of a historical horse racing legalization bill in the Kentucky House of Representatives. Click here to watch the podcast; click here for the audio-only version.