A Memorable Horse Racing Victory

May 2006 will remain an important month in the history of US horse racing. The Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, introduced by the Virginia Republican, Bob Goodlatte, has received the approval of the House Judiciary Committee with important exceptions for horse racing. The verdict was clear with a wide margin of 25-11, and all amendments to curtail the exemptions were defeated. The bill has been numbered as HR 4777, and may be taken up by the House soon. It would prohibit the use of the Internet for some forms of gambling. Such restrictions already apply to the inter-state telephone network. US horse racing would have received a major setback had it not been granted exemptions from key clauses of HR 4777.

Gambling as a generic term is the subject for much opprobrium. Much of this arises from concerns related to children and the effect on people who wager without method and well beyond their financial capacities. Some forms of gambling have been known to suffer from dubious sponsorship. Many operators have abused the lack of regulation for short-term gains and for unfair systems as well. Innocent consumers may fall prey to wild claims made by some parties. Early and token success can mislead individuals and entice them to spend more time and money on contrived games of chance. Restrictions on gambling have helped developing communities with relatively low literacy and awareness. The early days of telephony also required diversion of limited line capacities for relevant and important purposes.

Horse racing, especially as practiced in the United States, is a form of recreation in which informed adults can indulge without significant potential for abuse as commonly associated with some traditional forms of gambling. Simulcast wagering is especially important for enthusiastic punters in temperate climes in which the number of horse racing days at a particular race track can be severely restricted. Daily Racing Sheets have always provided intelligent bases for systematic odds betting, and video records from strategically placed cameras can provide reams of information for the knowledgeable and experienced to follow their favorite race horses and jockeys. Gambling in horse racing need not be a matter of unknown chance, and most operators go the extra mile to regulate events in the larger public interest. US horse racing also provided valuable financial support to state exchequers. Finally, apart from all the genuine benefits of horse racing, simulcast wagering is an international reality, regardless of any position that the US may take on the matter. Hence, the exemptions for the sport in the proposed HR 4777 are truly relevant and helpful from the perspective of the US horse racing industry.

The May 2006 horse racing victory with the House Judicial Committee notwithstanding, we still have a long way to go before the interests of punters are secured on a stable basis. Many sections of people and their representatives continue to tar horse racing with the same brush of infamy used for other destructive forms of gambling. The latter is a major industry with substantial offshore interests. HR 4777 separates wheat from chaff, recognizing and protecting the legitimate enjoyment of horse racing from illegal and unregulated exploitation of citizens. Let us hope that US horse racing emerges a clear winner at the democratic finishing line of making the Internet Gambling Enforcement Act a reality in its present form of exemptions for wagering on equestrian events.