RCI Convention Addresses Federal Regulation

Racing is in need of some forms of additional federal regulation according to a panel of experts at the 72nd annual convention of the Association of Racing Commissioners International. The general consensus was reached Wednesday morning during a panel discussion titled, "Is Federal Regulation Necessary for Racing?"

Panelists were Peggy Hendershot, representing the National Thoroughbred Racing Association/Breeders' Cup; Norman Barron, chairman of the Ohio State Racing Commission; Richard Shapiro, chairman of the California Horse Racing Board; and Randy Sawchuk a manager with the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency.

The strongest statement of the panel came from Barron, self-professed long-time proponent of keeping federal regulations out of the pari-mutuel business.

"I now believe there may be some areas where federal intervention could be helpful to this industry," Barron said. "Instead of having model rules, in which this organization supports, we would have uniform rules. And there is a significant difference between model rules and uniform rules.

"As good a job as many of the individual areas have been able to advance in regard to medications in regard to licensing, the fact of the matter is there is still variations from jurisdiction to jurisdiction," he said. "Uniform rules are something the Federal government could probably carry out and implement. There also could be some economies of scale with regards to drug testing and quality assurance."

Shapiro was blunt with his early comments.

"The answer to the question (panel title) is 'yes,'" Shapiro began. "The question that has not been asked is 'Do I want it (federal regulation)?' No. I don't want it more than anybody else does.

"However, I look at it as an opportunity," he said, "I see an industry that is fractualized at every level. We have so many special interests. What this industry needs is uniformity and unfortunately this industry has not demonstrated its own ability to govern itself to create that. No one has taken the lead and mandated that we could have uniform standards and practices. Hopefully, RCI will get there."

Where federal legislation could perhaps be most helpful, according to the panel, was in new forms of wagering such as advance deposit wagering and the off-shore internet sites.

"Advance deposit wagering is an area I truly believe would receive great value if the Federal government stepped in," Barrron said. "Residents of certain states, for one reason or another, don't even have access to advance deposit wagering. Their racing facilities suffer and the game suffers."

"ADW is a mess," Shapiro said. "If you look at the numbers that come out of ADW, the horsemen and the tracks are not making their fair share. We can't operate this business in the 21st century in a fractualized manner because our business is global. Today, as we send our signals throughout the world, we need to get our fair share to protect our product. Unfortunately, individual state regulators cannot do that. Frankly, we don't have the authority.

"The biggest threat is illegal off-shore wagering," Shapiro continued. "We have people that are in our facilities today that are stealing our fans. They are stealing 'whales' (big bettors) that come to the track. They know who they are. They walk up to them and say 'why are you wagering here? Come with me, and I'll give you 7% of what you are wagering.' We can't compete with that. We need to be empowered so we can police ourselves and if we can't do it, we need federal legislation that will allow us to do it."

Hendershot spoke of the NTRA's efforts on Capitol Hill.

"The reality is, Federal regulation is not an option, we are already in the legislative business," said Hendershot. She noted the NTRA's presence on Capitol Hill in working on the Interstate Horse Racing Act.

"There are currently three bills in play, two in the House and one in the Senate. The good news is that we are protected in all three bills. The point is, that a small change to the IHA has brought with it a host of legislative regulatory issues that no one could have forseen five years ago."

Hendershot also noted the jockey insurance issue that was taken to Washington. "If we don't come up with a workable insurance plan, Congress will do it for us."