Mike Ziegler, most recently senior vice president for online wagering company Youbet.com, was named the executive director of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance Jan. 26.
Ziegler, who will be based in Lexington, will manage multiple alliance projects and attempt to secure broad-based support of alliance initiatives in the areas of equine and human safety, as well as industry integrity, according to a release from the NTRA. He will report to NTRA president and chief executive officer Alex Waldrop.
Ziegler previously held senior management positions with Hollywood Park, Bay Meadows, and Santa Anita Park.
“We are pleased to bring in someone with Mike’s experience and passion to head up the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance,” Waldrop said. “His role will be crucial to the future of the Thoroughbred industry as we implement a series of important national integrity standards.”
The alliance was formed in 2008 to implement policies on a national level. Tommy Thompson, former governor of Wisconsin and ex-head of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, is coordinating the compliance effort as independent counsel. Officials said it’s imperative all industry stakeholders adopt the standards identified by the alliance and other groups.
“The success of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance is essential, and I am proud to be entrusted with this challenge,” Ziegler said in a statement. “I look forward to working with everyone associated with the racing industry as we build support and strive for vital safety and integrity improvements all across North America.”
Ziegler for years has worked for Jack Liebau, a member of the NTRA board of directors. Liebau is an executive with the company that operates Bay Meadows and Hollywood Park, and also serves as chairman of Youbet.com.
An official with the NTRA confirmed Liebau was on the search committee that sought to fill the position of alliance executive director but said Liebau recused himself from discussions involving Ziegler.
The alliance will function as a certification/accreditation body for the purpose of recognizing and encouraging compliance by all stakeholders. Reforms will be undertaken using a phased approach that begins immediately—in some cases, under house rules—and transitions to a broader strategy that relies on licensure requirements, continuing-education programs, and the state regulatory process.
In many states, the regulatory process has been stymied by insufficient funding. Alliance officials and others in the industry have called on stakeholders to lobby state legislators for more money.