As the pari-mutuel industry continues to grapple with issues related to integrity, one regulator believes the answers may lie with the industry's attitude.
Integrity, now a growing focus of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association because of issues tied to racehorse medication and wagering security, rarely fails to come up during an industry conference. The March 13 joint meeting of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, Harness Tracks of America, and Racetracks of Canada was no exception.
Stanley Sadinsky, chairman of the Ontario Racing Commission, said regulators in the Canadian province have tried to "raise the bar" on enforcement, and other jurisdictions have followed suit. Still, he said, there is a nagging obstacle.
"What I have sensed ... is there is unfortunately an attitude of some tolerance for a certain level of misconduct," Sadinsky said. "There has been a history of acceptance for some hanky-panky we're prepared to live with. The time has come to not just pay lip service to integrity."
Sadinsky said it could be people believe the violations are "victimless," or the lore of horse racing lends itself to a shady side. In any event, he said it's time to move on.
"It comes down to basically turning this industry around," Sadinsky said.
Sadinsky was a member of a panel that offered views on "Racing Today and Tomorrow." Though not a panelist, Woodbine Entertainment Group chief executive officer David Willmot told the panel he believes racing's success from alternative forms of gaming has led to another problem.
Willmot said he's concerned animal-rights groups may target horse racing. He said all-time high purses, in particular for claiming races, have led some horsemen to "recirculate animals and care less and less about what they look like after a race. There is a tendency to claim, abuse, and lose."
Sadinsky agreed. "If we have an Achilles heel, that's one the industry should pay more attention to," he said. "We can never do enough in terms of animal protection."
Ontario has a "death registry" whereby all licensees are required to report the deaths of horses that recently raced. The regulations call for autopsies.