Horse racing in the United States is struggling to survive and has been doing so for quite some time. Why, primarily because those who wager, the life blood of the industry, feel that their interests are not being protected to the extent necessary for them to continue wagering with confidence. That perception certainly will not encourage new customers, a predicament that should concern operators and regulators, alike. That perception is strangling attendance and mutuel handle at every venue across the nation. Perception unsupported by fact is detrimental in and of itself, and when the facts indicate that perception is about eighty percent accurate, any astute businessman or regulator in this case, should recognize the problem and immediately seek solutions. Unfortunately, that is not the reality of this particular problem. Another unfortunate fact is that horse racing is a state regulated business. By necessity, it is highly regulated if the regulation is judiciously applied.
The primary complaint from those who wager and from stakeholders within the industry is the slap on the wrist type penalties that are imposed on trainers guilty of drug violations. Within the industry, boards of stewards are the initial phase of determining what happened and who is responsible for said act or omission. Persons aggrieved by a decision of a board of stewards can appeal to the state racing commission and in turn anyone aggrieved by a decision of a state racing commission has appeal rights in the appropriate state court. Here is the bad news. In all states allowing wagering on horse racing, the racing commission members are appointees of the governor. The racing commission members then appoint and approve all stewards. Too many stewards are beholden to racing commission members, friends and acquaintances as well as their own personal agendas. The very same applies to commission members beholden to the governor and other undue influences. I have observed countless situations of this nature and have been personally involved in many myself. Some adjudications forthcoming from both stewards and racing commissioners are egregious and unbelievable The primary reason that these conditions continue to exist is because so few people care enough to do anything more than complain. An extremely high percentage of stakeholders in the business have created this bed and now must sleep in it.