July 2015 Issue - page 4

Page 4
July 2015
Representative Pitts Floats Two Bills to Radically Reform Racing
by Suzanne Bush
Congressman Joe Pitts
(R-Pa) has been arguing for
years that horseracing has been
corrupted by numerous abuses,
most prominently the illegal use
of drugs on horses. With New
Mexico’s Democratic Senator
Tom Udall, Pitts introduced
legislation that would require
the United States Federal Trade
Commission to address the
corrosive influence of drugs in
horseracing. After that legisla-
tive parry failed to gain traction,
Pitts and Udall tried another ap-
proach in 2013. They proposed
legislation, called the Horserac-
ing Integrity and Safety Act, that
would enlist the United States
Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)
to police the sport. That effort
failed, too.
Last month, the two reform-
ers tried another approach—one
that would radically change the
dynamics of horseracing by
repealing the 1978 Interstate
Horseracing Act. The 1978 law
made off-track and “online”
betting on pari-mutuel races legal
and allowed for simulcasting of
In 1978 the world still
relied on landlines for telephone
service. That was the “online”
imagined in the legislation. The
first hand-held phone that did
not require power from a car
battery was introduced in 1973.
Remember Betamax? Right.
Nobody else does, either. But
Betamax was the sensational
new technology that vastly
expanded the menu of entertain-
ment available on televisions.
The Apple II desktop computer
was introduced in 1977, but
commercial internet service
providers didn’t arrive on the
scene until the 1990s. Given the
profound changes in technology
since the Interstate Horseracing
Act was passed in 1978, it’s
apparent that the law should be
House Efforts to Curb Drugs
But Pitts and Udall believe
that repeal is the only way to
force horseracing to reform
itself. Pitts has not given up the
idea of bringing the USADA
onto racetracks. He’s convinced
that the drugs result in cata-
strophic injuries to horses and
to jockeys. He again proposed
the Horseracing Integrity and
Safety Act—the bill that died
in committee in 2014--in the
House, and has received some
bipartisan support. “That is why
I joined with my friends, Repre-
sentatives Jan Schakowsky (D-
Il) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) to
reintroduce reform legislation,
the Horseracing Integrity and
Safety Act, which would give
USADA the authority it needs
to put an end to horse-doping
on race day,” Pitts explained via
email. “Our bill would condi-
tion the privilege of off-track
betting on passing USADA
The Interstate Horseracing
Act created a robust stream of
revenue for the industry, and
today most of horseracing’s reve-
nue comes from off-track betting.
As the rocker Cyndi Lauper so
famously explained the obvious,
“money changes everything.”
Pitts believes that the billions
of dollars that flow across the
internet and through off track
betting venues create a lawless,
avaricious climate in which no
strategy is out of bounds. “Our
legislation is about hitting the
pause button on the massive
stream of money that is funding
the industry. Over 90 per cent
of the industry’s revenue is in
off-track betting, and is creating
a powerful incentive to win at all
costs—even by using substances
on race day.”
Drugging Horses Will
Destroy the Sport
After Pitts and Udall lis-
tened to experts and stakehold-
ers in Kennett Square, PA in
2012, they were convinced that
the drugging of horses at Amer-
ica’s racetracks was as detri-
mental to horseracing as the
doping scandals in bike racing
had been. “The need for reform
isn’t new,” Pitts explained. “The
horseracing industry has prom-
ised for decades that it would
implement uniform standards,
but only a few states have done
so.” Pennsylvania is among
the states that adopted uni-
form standards in 2013. Those
standards limit the medications
which veterinarians are permit-
ted to use on racehorses, and
require labs which test for drugs
to be accredited. “Each week
some two dozen horses die on
racetracks in the United States,”
Pitts said, “many of them
having been forced to run while
sick and drugged.”
Even with that reform,
however, problems persist. Last
year three veterinarians at Penn
National Racetrack were arrest-
ed and charged with falsifying
medication reports on horses.
That scandal was the latest in a
string of legal problems, which
resulted in the arrests of trainers
and a clocker.
Pitts says that America’s
racetrack abuses are a national
shame. “Other countries look
on this situation with horror
(Continued on page 13)
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