EDITORIAL: Horse racing legislation enters the final stretch

Rep. Paul Tonko speaks outside the clubhouse entrance regarding the Horseracing Integrity Act, with horse racing supports behind, at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs on Thursday, August 1, 2019.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Rep. Paul Tonko speaks outside the clubhouse entrance regarding the Horseracing Integrity Act, with horse racing supports behind, at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs on Thursday, August 1, 2019.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

With the no-crowd summer Saratoga season in the rear-view mirror, the last leg of the Triple Crown being run under autumn leaves on Saturday, and Tiz the Law’s Breeder’s Cup redemption more than a month into the future, it’s easy for even the most avid horse-racing fans to become distracted and disinterested.

But amidst all the talk in Washington over bail-out packages and Supreme Court justices and the presidential election follies is legislation vital to the future of the horse racing industry and potentially the health and well-being of future generations of racehorses.

Moving quickly through Congress is the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which will create national standards for the industry to ensure fairness and safety in the industry.

The landmark bill, which passed the House last month with the persistent guidance of local Rep. Paul Tonko and others, would create a new independent, non-governmental regulatory body responsible for establishing uniform national safety and competition standards for the industry. This will replace the complex and often contradictory patchwork of individual state regulations that now governs the industry.

For the horses, the regulations will help protect them from drug interactions that could lead to illness, injuries and death.

For the industry itself, the legislation will even the playing field and take away the unfair advantage that some horse owners claim by doping their horses.

For bettors, it will help assure them of the integrity of the sport and their bets.

And for the state economy, it will help ensure a long and prosperous future for horse-racing.

According to Dave O’Rourke, president and CEO of the New York Racing Association, the horse-racing industry generates around 19,000 jobs and more than $3 billion in annual economic impact statewide, including $240 million in the Capital Region from the annual 40-day Saratoga meet.

NYRA is among the bill’s strongest supporters, with O’Rourke saying the legislation will “move the sport forward.”

The bill is now headed to the U.S. Senate, where it was introduced jointly by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the all-powerful majority leader who just so happens to represent the state of Kentucky.

With this kind of high-level bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, it’s possible the five-year journey of this important legislation will finally end in the winner’s circle.

For the sake of the horse-racing industry, the state and local economy, the safety of the jockeys and, most importantly, the health and welfare of the horses, we encourage swift passage of this legislation in the Senate and a quick and enthusiastic signature from the president.

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