MORE LEGAL SPORTS BETTING ON THE HORIZON?

The major professional sports leagues in the United States and the NCAA have long taken the position that sports betting on individual games, currently legal only in Nevada, could corrupt their sports, pointing to such cases in point as the infamous fix of the 1919 World Series and periodic point-shaving scandals in college basketball.  Never mind that a massive amount of verboten gambling goes on without government regulation or tax collection.

The Wall Street Journal (April 1-2, 2017) published an article on this subject, which I’ve excepted from.  The gist of the piece is that the professional sports leagues in the United States, with the possible exception of the NFL, are receptive to legalizing sports betting because of declining television ratings that impact their revenue streams from broadcast rights.  The leagues include the NBA, PGA, MLB, and Major League Soccer.  Even the NFL has softened its stance and is in the process of having the Oakland Raiders move to Las Vegas.  The NCAA is the sole holdout that is adamantly opposed to legalizing sports betting.

The sports leagues see new sources of revenue from sports betting “through licensing deals and contracts for real-time sports data, which the leagues could sell to sports-book operators and other gambling sites.”  The NBA has already launched a fantasy game called NBA InPlay.

Moreover, sports betting encourages fan involvement.  According to the Journal, “Gamblers are more engaged with sports than casual fans.  A September Nielsen study conducted for the American Gaming Association found that bettors watch NFL games on average for 91 minutes, versus 79 minutes for nongamblers, and they watch about 35 games per season, compared with 16 for nonbettors.”

In 2014, New Jersey legalized sports betting at racetracks and casinos.  The NCAA sued to block the law and won at the federal district and appellate levels.  The Supreme Court is deciding whether to hear the case.  President Donald Trump went on record in 2015 as saying he is not opposed to sports betting because “it is happening anyway.”

The big commercial losers in legalized U. S. sports betting would be offshore operators who take in “tens of billions of dollars in bets from U. S. customers.”

The view here is that U. S. horse racing would gain more from legalized sports betting than it would lose.  For example, the most popular genre of sports betting in Europe is in-game betting using mobile technology, and horse racing is attractive for this kind of play.  In addition, sports bets could be crafted based on the outcomes of horse races.  Finally, illegal sports betting is pervasive in the United States, so legalizing it would only recognize what is already going on.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business

KENTUCKY DERBY HISTORY: DANCER’S IMAGE

There has been only one disqualification of the winner of the Kentucky Derby and that came in 1968.  Under today’s medication rules, it would not have occurred.

The first and second favorites in the 1968 Kentucky Derby were Calumet Farm’s Forward Pass and Peter Fuller’s Dancer’s Image, the latter being by the acclaimed racehorse and sire Native Dancer.  Like his sire, Dancer’s Image was a grey.  The colt was trained by Lou Cavalaris and ridden by Bobby Ussery.

The official chart depicted Dancer’s Image 1 ½ length win:

“DANCER’S IMAGE, void of speed through the early stages after being bumped at start, commenced a rally after three-quarters to advance between horses on the second turn, cut back to the inside when clear entering the stretch at which point his rider dropped his whip.  Responding to a vigorous hand ride the colt continued to save ground to take command nearing the furlong marker and was hard pressed to edge FORWARD PASS. “

The post-race urinalysis came back the week after the Derby with the finding that Dancer’s Image’s urine had traces of the anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone, or bute, which was a legal medication in some racing jurisdictions in 1968 but not in Kentucky.  Dr. Alex Harthill, a noted racetrack veterinarian, said that he had administered bute to the colt six days before the Derby, supposedly enough time for the medication to clear the bloodstream.  Skeptics did not buy Harthill’s timeline because of some previous similar episodes the vet was involved in.

Two weeks later in the Preakness, Dancer’s Image was again disqualified after running third for bumping another horse and placed eighth in the ten-entry field.  Plagued by sore ankles, his racing career was over.

Never has a horse been disqualified in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

Fuller spent years and, he said, $250,000 contesting the Derby disqualification, but to no avail.

Dancer’s Image stood at stud in the United States, Ireland, France, and Japan, with moderate success, and died in 1992 at age 27.

By current racing medication standards in the United States, Dancer’s Image won the Kentucky Derby fair and square.  But that was not the case in 1968 and the name inscribed as the winner will forever be Forward Pass.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business

The Kentucky Derby history series began on February 20 and concludes on May 1, appearing weekly on Monday.

EXPANDING CULPABILITY IN HORSE DOPING BEYOND THE TRAINER

When a trainer in the United States is found to have run a horse that tests positive for a medication banned by the state racing authority, the trainer is held responsible.  The racing commission rule in Delaware is typical:

“15.1.3.1.1  A finding by the chemist that a foreign substance is present in the test sample shall be prima facie evidence that such foreign substance was administered and carried in the body of the horse while participating in a race.  Such a finding shall also be taken as prima facie evidence that the Trainer and agents responsible for the care or custody of the horse has/have been negligent in the handling or care of the horse.”

While “the trainer” is named in this rule, so are “agents,” which is construed to mean unspecified other parties.  However, the meaning of “agents” is vague: does the word refer to assistant trainers, stable foremen, veterinarians, and owners?

Whenever a trainer is suspended for medication violations, his or her horses are usually transferred to another licensed trainer.  This may be a ruse, a transfer to another trainer in name only.

Contrast the way doping is policed in United States horse racing with the rules and penalties of the Federation Equestre International.  This worldwide governing body for horse sports holds responsible for a drug violation the person (rider or driver) who competes with the horse or the horse’s handler.  These people are immediately and automatically suspended if a horse tests positive.  Once the FEI investigates, any other individuals who participated in, or had knowledge of, the doping are also penalized.

The preset penalty for doping is a two-year suspension.  A person can get this penalty reduced or eliminated only if he or she can prove no fault to a hearing panel.  In order to do this, he or she must identify the party or parties who doped the horse.

The U. S. Equine Federation recently followed the lead of the Federation Equestre International by seeking to identify and sanction all persons who are responsible for a doping violation, although the U. S. rules are not as stringent.

American horse racing could improve its reputation for integrity among bettors and the general public were state racing authorities to adopt the approach of the Federation Equestre International.  A trainer should not be the only individual to be sanctioned for violations if it can be shown that other individuals were partly or entirely to blame.

Further, suspending, for 45-60 days, a horse that was found to be running on a banned medication would encourage owners to stay away from training stables with a history of drug violations.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business