Big changes could be coming nationwide to the sport of horse racing.
A new bill set to be introduced this month would significantly increase the amount of oversight in horse racing, with the goal of stamping out cheating and making the sport safer for both humans and horses.
Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, also the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, announced plans to introduce the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act at a press conference this week at Keeneland race track in Lexington. The senator pointed to recent scandals in the horse racing industry, including doping and horse deaths, which jeopardize the health of not only the horses, but the 24,000 Kentucky residents employed by the industry.
“If we wanted to preserve horse racing and its future, we needed to act,” McConnell said. “We owe it to the horses, we owe it to the jockeys, we owe it to the trainers, the breeders and fans to make thoroughbred racing as fair and as safe as possible.”
Government Agency Oversight Expected
McConnell also announced the creation of an independent oversight organization called the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which would establish policies around doping, medication given to horses, and conditions of the track.
Although the proposed authority would be a non-governmental organization, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission would be its overseer, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency would provide guidance and expertise around drug policy.
McConnell is being joined in his efforts by U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, who has introduced several similar pieces of legislation before that failed to gain enough traction to pass.
Churchill Downs CEO Offers Support
Churchill Downs is synonymous nationwide with horse racing, but especially in Kentucky. The company has previously fought against similar legislative efforts, but the current CEO of Churchill Downs Bill Carstanjen has announced his support for the latest bill.
“We were always on the same page from the perspective of something really needed to be done to take our sport forward into the future,” he said. “It was a question of how to do it, and how to ensure the longevity of what we do. Independence, clarity of governance, clarity of roles between those enforcing and administering the rules and regulations versus those that are creating the rules and regulations – all those detailed issues were all things that we talked about over the last few years.”
Although Congress is debatably as partisan as it’s ever been in the history of the governing body, the bill is expected to gain broad bipartisan support.