This Sunday is the biggest day in American sports–Super Bowl LVII. While I enjoy this annual ritual, I much prefer the first Saturday in May–or really any Saturday where there is great Thoroughbred competition to watch.
I grew up a bettor, then became a marketer and ultimately an owner in the sport. And all three of these experiences I’ve enjoyed immensely. And for the benefit of each, I applauded the efforts to finally, finally, finally bring Thoroughbred racing under the long-overdue establishment of uniform safety and integrity rules through the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act.
I hate to say it, but I fully expected some corners of the industry to fight this. And they have. And they are only slowing down a train that badly needs to roll on to ensure the present and the future of our sport.
As a bettor I want a level playing field, as an investor I want to be protected–and as a marketer, my lifelong profession, I want a product I can proudly and honestly promote.
With the establishment of HISA to set and enforce rules for our sport and its participants, all three of those boxes could be checked.
To consumers under 40, the most important trait a brand can possess is “Trustworthiness”. It is at the core of building a relationship with a consumer. I would venture to say racing would score near the bottom of the sporting world with this next generation of owners and bettors.
No amount of advertising dollars can cure the damage caused when a brand cannot be trusted.
Competition for the entertainment dollar has never been more difficult. While I applaud some innovation in our fight for that dollar, if we continue to be seen–by our current customers, much less potential new ones–as a sport lacking fundamental safety and integrity, the clock will continue to run down on Thoroughbred racing.
The ongoing growth and acceptance of sports betting is a major opportunity for racing. And the more our brand is seen as doing everything we can to regulate and ensure integrity, the better our chances at getting a bigger piece of the sports wagering pie.
We have our best chance to change with the implementation and full industry support of HISA.
Uniting different interests and regulating any sport is never easy. And there will be bumps along the way that comes with any effort of this magnitude. But they can and will be addressed.
Watching the Chiefs versus Eagles on Sunday should remind us–that uniformity and proper regulation can truly lead to “Super” things. The NFL is certainly not perfect, but their journey to becoming the dominant sport in America can be traced partially to their willingness to unite and better regulate their game.
I urge anyone who desires a better future for our sport to support the efforts of HISA.