California, Vote No to Subsidizing Horseracing; Vote No on Prop 26

The following op-ed was sent out to several California papers…

This November, Californians will have an opportunity to vote on whether to allow sports betting, and if so, what form it will take. Proposition 26 would permit betting only at tribal casinos and the state’s four main horseracing tracks: Golden Gate, Santa Anita, Los Alamitos, and Del Mar. This measure would give the racing industry a massive state subsidy. And because that subsidy would be constitutionally tied to holding horse races, Prop 26 would have the effect of indefinitely locking in an industry that abuses and kills sentient beings as a matter of course.

Since 2014, Horseracing Wrongs has documented 8,960 industry kills (865 in California alone). We estimate, however, that over 2,000 horses are dying at U.S. tracks every year. Cardiac arrest. Pulmonary hemorrhage. Blunt-force head trauma. Broken necks. Severed spines. Ruptured ligaments. Shattered legs. Over 2,000 – or about six a day. And when not dying at the track, they’re dying at the abattoir: Two independent studies indicate that most – multiple thousands annually – spent or simply no-longer-wanted racehorses are bled-out and butchered at “career’s” end. In short, the American horseracing industry is engaged in wholesale carnage. Carnage.

But the killing is but a part of the story. There is, too, the everyday cruelty:

– Would-be racehorses are forever torn from their mothers and herds as mere babies. Sold, usually, at the tender age of one; broken, an industry term meaning to be made pliant and submissive; alone and terrified, their servitude begins.

– The typical horse does not reach full musculoskeletal maturity till the age of six. The typical racehorse is thrust into intensive training at 18 months, and raced at two. On the maturation chart, a 2-year-old horse is the rough equivalent of a 6-year-old child. In the necropsies, we see time and again 4-, 3-, even 2-year-old horses dying with chronic conditions like osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease – clear evidence of the incessant pounding these pubescent bodies are forced to absorb.

– In perhaps the worst of it, racehorses are kept locked – alone – in tiny 12×12 stalls for over 23 hours a day, making a mockery of the industry claim that “horses are born to run,” and a cruelty all the worse for being inflicted on innately social animals like horses. Prominent equine vet Dr. Kraig Kulikowski likens this cruelty to keeping a child locked in a 4×4 closet for over 23 hours a day. Relatedly, practically all the horse’s natural instincts and desires are thwarted, creating an emotional and mental suffering that is brought home with crystal clarity in the stereotypies commonly seen in confined racehorses: wind-sucking, bobbing, weaving, kicking, even self-mutilation.

– Racehorses are controlled and subjugated through, among other means, cribbing collars, nose chains, lip chains, tongue ties, eye blinders, mouth “bits” – which, says Dr. Robert Cook, an expert on equine physiology, make racehorses feel like they are suffocating – and, of course, whips. On that, the public flogging administered to racehorses would land a person in jail if done to his dog in the park. But at the track, it’s part of the tradition.

– By law, racehorses are chattel – pieces of property to be bought, sold, traded, and dumped whenever and however their people decide. In fact, the average racehorse will change hands multiple times, adding anxiety and stress to an already anxious, stressful existence. This inconstancy is also a primary reason why over 90% of active racehorses suffer from ulcers.

The choice, then, is quite simple: If you believe that, like dogracing – which is prohibited on moral grounds in 42 states, including California – horseracing is but animal cruelty masquerading as entertainment, then please reject this lifeline being gifted to the industry. Vote no on Proposition 26. Thank you.

(Note: There is another ballot measure, Prop 27, that would also legalize sports betting – but this one would not subsidize the abuse and killing of horses.)

9 Comments

  1. Thanks Patrick for educating people like me on this current Prop proposal.
    Just leave it up to horse racing to wrangle, wiggle, and bully their way into millions in public subsidies only this time they’ve teamed up with the tribes.
    This deal was cut on the side way back when when former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger was negotiating with the native tribes of California.
    Frank Stronach reportedly has a hand in getting former Gov. Arnold APPOINTED (not elected) to the Governor of New York and who was Arnold dating at the time before he was married? – you guessed it right – BELINDA STRONACH.
    At the time, Frank Stronach’s former Magna Entertainment Group tried to completely cut-out the native tribes from any support whatsoever, but the tribes were smart and history was on their side because they know the only way to get anything from the “white man” is to use the legal system and sue them.
    A lawsuit ensued that was eventually settled between former Gov. Arnold and the tribes, but held out of the public’s knowledge was an agreement that the tribes would eventually permit horse racing to be part of this massive financial structure that will GUARANTEE horse racing in California for years to come.
    Just like any other horse racing venue in this country they can’t financially support themselves because this is a dying business and has been for years now.
    Instead of politicians doing their jobs and realizing that so many other business venues can provide more jobs, better jobs, by not killing racehorses they opt for this option every single time.
    As I write this, horse racing entities are busy looking for any state that has reserved Racehorse Development funds, like they did in Massachusetts, then they find one of their political allies and buddies in office who puts it through despite what the public and local residents want.
    This is classic horse racing modus operandi and it has worked for them for years!
    Then the political allies and horse racing are in bed again, like they always have been, and taxpayers lose, but the racehorses are the biggest losers.
    It’s going to take California residents to STAND STRONG against this “done deal” and vote against Prop 26.

    • The tribes in the southern part of the State of Idaho want stuff like this including a new facility and a race track with live horseracing as well. They plan for and bicker over these things years in advance. I hope and pray that it fails to become a reality anywhere and everywhere!!!!! Just leave the horses out of the gambling!

  2. You just know the highly-transparent, super-credible CHRB is positively salivating over the prospect of locking in new business to their four major horse-killing tracks. What better way to siphon off the betting interest of REAL sports and bring it to their own dying facilities? (“Sure, you can gamble on your favorite teams. But first you must drive to the seedy, archaic world of state-sanctioned animal killing to place your bets.”)
    Also, the monthly CHRB meeting is tomorrow; can’t wait to hear the positively giddy Scott Chaney, Jeff Blea, and Greg Ferraro, finally reunited in their horse-abuse lovefest.

  3. As I understand it, Prop 26 would allow wagering ONLY at the racetracks and Tribal Casinos, whereas Prop 27 would also allow internet gambling from your smartphone or computer.

    Sports betting is big – and if Prop 26 goes through, in California you’d have to head to the track, where, I’m sure, many gamblers might just consider placing a bet or two on a horse in addition to their sports wagers..

    This would never happen if Prop 27 went through, as not many folks visit a racetrack these days anyway. Simulcast betting and computer wagering sites have largely replaced in-person wagering, a trend which would get a jump start in California if Prop 27 goes through. Also, those wagering dollars spent on horse racing have been severely diminished by the advent of sports wagering, and the racing industry knows this only too well.

    I can understand why the racing industry favors Prop 26. However, if you’re a gambler, Prop 27 makes a lot more sense, even if only strictly from a betting point of view.

    I have gambling friends who have wagering accounts that they bet daily from their smart phones. One friend bets football, baseball, hockey, plays online roulette, blackjack, poker, and even virtual slots. Interestingly, he never bets on horse racing! With his ‘app’ he can easily bet on the upcoming Breeders Cup races, but says he will not do so. He says he hates horse race betting. I believe that many sports bettors feel the same way, and very possibly the racing industry realizes that it is holding on for dear life at this point.

    -Joe

    • Yes, they do know it! Why else would they be clamoring for more public subsidies and government-directed benefits including any kind of legislative advantage to benefit themselves (and to hell with everyone else, especially the horses and the taxpaying public plus the bettors as well)? The individuals (Stronach, Frank and Belinda, etc.) and groups who profit from pari-mutuel wagering know that without the advantage of public funding propping them up, they would have to have their beloved horse-abusing, horse-doping, horse-killing racetracks shut down. Bye bye billions of dollars in stud fees, too! The foal crop numbers have been in steady decline for decades. This declining population of horses to be exploited for racing continues. Without all of the government subsidies and government-directed benefits including tax breaks and write-offs to the racing industry and the breeding farms, the whining of people who can no longer milk it for all it’s worth will be deafening!

  4. I don’t see this passing. Prop 27 legalizes internet sports betting and will probably pass. Why would anyone vote to have to get in the car and drive to a racetrack or casino to place a bet on a football game when they can sit home and do it from their phone in a minute? Best case scenario is that 27 passes and people stop going to the track.

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