As we look back, 2021 was a remarkedly good year in California. On our core metrics of purses and equine safety, overnight purse levels increased throughout the state and we saw a dramatic reduction (over 50 percent) in catastrophic injuries. The 2021 Breeders’ Cup again showcased the best racing in the world in California with Del Mar setting new records for total BC wagering and number of international horses.
The prospects in 2022 look even brighter. On December 26th, Santa Anita Park will open for its 86th season with a 10% purse increase. Next summer Del Mar expects to again increase their overnight purses – which would be their third purse increase in two years! Up North, Golden Gate recently announced that all starter allowance, maiden claiming, and claiming races will receive purse bumps of $3,000 starting December 26th. As always, your tremendous support of California racing is the primary reason we are trending the right way.
On the “business side” of racing, TOC will continue to focus in 2022 on the three priorities of Higher Purses, HISA and Sports Wagering:
In early 2021 TOC negotiated an unprecedented two-year purse enhancement from ADW companies providing $15.5 million in supplemental purses at California Thoroughbred tracks. $6.75 million of these supplemental purses were allocated in 2021, and we are pleased to announce that an additional $8.75 million of purses are being allocated in 2022. In the coming months we will announce the specific allocation of these purses to the Thoroughbred racetracks. Thank you to our ADW partners at TVG and the Stronach Group for showing their commitment to California racing through these voluntary contributions, and big kudos to TOC board member Bob Liewald for his time and effort securing the enhancements. Currently absent in California are ancillary subsidies, and strategic deals like this help shorten the gap with competing states.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) was approved by Congress to create and enforce uniform safety and medication rules across all racing states. With its statutory start date of July 1, 2022 quickly approaching, HISA recently released a series of proposed new medication and safety regulations for public comment. TOC has joined with three other horsemen’s associations, THA, TOBA and KTA, to provide collective input on the proposed regulations. Beyond the hundreds of technical and definitional issues we identified in our comments, our main concerns relate to two points:
- The costs of HISA to California owners who already fund over $10 million annually from purses to cover the costs of the CHRB and UC Davis; and
- The details on how the new federal regulatory authority envisioned by HISA will operate in conjunction with the CHRB to regulate racing in California.
Due to the importance and complexity of the HISA regulations, we conducted a TOC membership teleconference on December 13th to discuss the current status in greater detail with over 100 members participating. Click here to listen to a transcript of that call. We expect to see many more drafts of the regulations in the coming months, and we will keep the membership informed on major developments. Thanks again to Rick Gold, Chair of the TOC Equine Welfare and Medication Committee, for his tireless work on behalf of the TOC with the HISA implementation.
The California Sports Wagering ballot initiative is officially on the ballot for November 2022. If passed, sports wagering becomes legal in California at brick and mortar retail locations at tribal casinos and four racetracks – Del Mar, Santa Anita Park, Golden Gate Fields, and Los Alamitos. With tens of millions of dollars of new revenue projected for racetracks and the purse account, we are currently in negotiations on specific business terms for sharing the new revenue streams with our partner tracks.
There will likely be two to three additional sports wagering ballot initiatives on the November 2022 ballot including one announced this summer by the largest sports wagering operators, FanDuel, Draft Kings and Bet MGM, that would only authorize mobile or Internet wagering (the “Mobile Only Initiative”).
TOC is working daily to best position California horseracing and TOC members should one of these measures pass next year. For example, in the event the Mobile Only Initiative were to pass, horseracing could potentially have more than one million new sports wagering account holders as potential new racing customers. TOC is leading the effort to work through the complex legal, financial, and technical issues of how sports betting companies could offer parimutuel wagering through their existing sites, if, and when, mobile sports betting comes to California.
As always, if you have any comments or questions about any of the current issues facing our industry, please feel free to reach out to me or any member of TOC any time.
Here’s to a great 2022.