As money generated by added-gaming has boosted purses and breeder funds throughout the country, it has become more important than ever for racing to maintain integrity.
Jockey Club chairman Stuart Janney III made that point during his closing remarks at the Round Table on Matters Pertaining to Racing Aug. 13 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He noted that a scandal anywhere in the country can impact how racing is viewed and threaten the significant commitment state governments have made to the sport.
Janney cited the July conviction in federal court of Pennsylvania-based trainer Murray Rojas on 14 counts of misbranding drugs. Testimony at that trial said use of illegal, race-day medication was commonplace.
"It gives all of racing a black eye," Janney said. "It jeopardizes our share of slots revenue in all states. It arouses animal welfare groups nationally, as it should. It suggests strongly that similar problems lurk in many other jurisdictions."
When pari-mutuel wagering was the sole source of purse money, integrity in horse racing was needed to ensure bettors' trust in the product. That need for integrity still exists, but the sport today also relies on some $400 million in purse funding, and another $64 million in breeder funds, generated by other forms of gaming as documented in this week's BloodHorse Magazine.
That $464 million undergoes review by state lawmakers. Should a lawmaker in Louisiana—perhaps one undecided about horse racing and breeding—read about Pennsylvania's problems; it could negatively impact their opinion of the sport.
State commitments to racing most assuredly are significant. The money generated for purses in the most recent available calendar or fiscal years in states that commit money from added gaming to the racing industry would account for about 37% of U.S. Thoroughbred purses, if applied to the 2016 purse total. This percentage actually is higher as it doesn't include money committed to breeder funds ultimately awarded as purses.
In short, racing most assuredly is in a partnership with state government. And Janney noted that when lawmakers examine that partnership, a scandal in another state could impact their decision making.
"And to anyone sitting comfortably in this room thinking Pennsylvania's problems are not yours, I would say: Forget it. We own this problem," Janney said in his closing remarks at the Round Table.
When it comes to drug testing and medication issues, the sport can't afford a weak link. It's just one reason the Jockey Club supports the United States Anti-Doping Agency overseeing the sport's drug testing and medication policies. The sport needs top, uniform oversight in every state because racing's problems don't recognize state borders.