The principal difference between how racing is regulated in the United States and Great Britain is decentralization in the former and centralization in the latter. In America, regulatory authority rests with the individual states, whereas in Great Britain all of the racecourses are under the regulatory jurisdiction of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). As a result, there is much more uniformity of rules, regulations, and policing in Great Britain.

The Jockey Club controlled English racing from the 19th century until 2006, when the British Horseracing Regulatory Authority took over governance. In 2007, the British Horseracing Authority was founded with the merger of the British Horseracing Regulatory Authority and the British Horseracing Board.

The BHA states that it “aims to represent and promote the best interests of racing with one clear voice.” It performs a variety of functions, such as licensing, leading on health and welfare of humans and horses, regulating racecourses including medication use, race scheduling among the 58 licensed racecourses in Great Britain, and promotion of the sport.

Since ceding regulatory matters to the BHA, the Jockey Club focuses on promoting racing and welfare of horses and humans. It owns 15 racecourses, which encompasses such premier facilities as Newmarket, Epsom Downs, Cheltenham, and Aintree. It also owns The National Stud and the Jockey Club Estates at Newmarket.

Between the BHA and the Jockey Club, there is a unified force to promote and regulate horse racing.

The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 in the United States Congress is an attempt to copy an important element of the British system by centralizing medication oversight. It reads in part:

“This bill establishes the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority as an independent, private non-profit corporation with responsibility for developing and administering an anti-doping and medication control program for (1) Thoroughbred, Quarter, and Standardbred horses that participate in horse races; and (2) the personnel engaged in the care, training, or racing of such horses.

The Federal Trade Commission shall have oversight over the authority. An interstate compact may be established after five years to take over the authority’s duties.”

Because most of the top racetracks in the United States are owned by NYRA, Churchill Downs, and the Stronach Group, the United States could achieve some of the centralization of the BHA if the three entities were to join forces on regulation. While antitrust law would prevent any attempt to coordinate business strategies and tactics, the racetrack organizations would almost surely be permitted to cooperate on safety and welfare matters.

In the highly likely event that the Horseracing Integrity Act fails to become law (only 4 percent of bills actually become laws), cooperation among the racetracks is about as close as governance of American racing is going to get to the British system. If Penn National, Keeneland, and Del Mar were to join NYRA, Churchill Downs, and the Stronach Group, a significant number of racetracks in the United States would be in the compact. The tracks would have to cope with state regulatory authorities, but that is not an impossible task.

Meanwhile, the Jockey Club could continue its invaluable efforts to promote racing via the empirically-based intitatives recommended by McKinsey & Company, such as scheduling of grades stakes races among racetracks to optimize betting handle .

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