Support for the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017
Shawn Smeallie
Shawn Smeallie, Executive Director, Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity

Stuart S. Janney III:

Thank you very much, Amanda, it was a really inspiring presentation. It's fascinating to see how the VRC has addressed so many problems that we have identified in U.S. racing and done it with great success, whether it's post times, national uniformity, sponsorships, integrity -- the list doesn't stop there. I just hope we'll figure out a way to follow in the roadmap that you've laid out. So thank you for coming here. We wish you continued success and hope you've enjoyed your stay in Saratoga.

Shawn Smeallie is a Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist with considerable regulatory and legislative experience in the areas of defense, trade, energy, tax, and environmental issues. He's been a guiding light and opened many legislative doors for the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity over the past few years.

Shawn, the stage is yours.

Shawn Smeallie:

Good morning. Thank you, sir. I do want to say that before I start I did go to the Melbourne Cup a few years ago, and it is everything you say it is and more. And it's quite the spectacle. If you havenít gone before, I would go and put it on your bucket list. It's really something.

As a local boy from nearby Amsterdam, New York, and a lifelong racing fan, serving as the executive director of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity is a true labor of love for me. Referencing what you said, it's 50 years to the day today when my grandfather first brought me to the racetrack. So, sadly I'm still waiting for that first winning season at Saratoga, but I enjoy it.

The Horseracing Integrity Act has garnered strong congressional support. Last congress, as Jim mentioned, the original bill had nearly 90 co-sponsors. Congressman Andy Barr and Saratoga's own Paul Tonko recently reintroduced the bill, H.R. 2651, and we expect next month to have well over 100 co-sponsors. In fact, due to the efforts of Congressman Tonko and support from the New York industry, 17 members of the New York delegation have already co-sponsored, and we expect the remaining ones to co-sponsor within the next month or so.

While the House Energy and Commerce Committee did not have time to move the bill last congress, we have been assured by the committee staff that they will have an industry round table hearing this fall, and the chairman of the committee has told supporters that he would like to move the bill out of the committee this congress. One of the new co-sponsors of the bill is the former chairman of the committee, Fred Upton, who is enormously well respected with the Republican caucus. In the senate, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York remains committed to introducing a senate version of the bill. This will happen once we reserve a Republican co-sponsor, which should happen in the next month.

Like support for this legislation, the Coalition itself is growing. Adding Frank Stronach to the list of the bill's supporters shows the industry and members of congress that the Coalition and the issue is not going away. We commend Mr. Stronach and all the others who have backed this much-needed legislation for their courageous support. It is truly making a difference. Like New York, we expect support from the congressional delegations of Florida, California, and Maryland, states where Mr. Stronach has a major presence.

So why does this bill, which has a strong, but not unanimous, industry support have such a promising chance to move in congress? Why should congress care? The bill will move, because, in the end, it does right by the horse. Opponents take false comfort that the bill has yet become law, but I have learned over my 30 years' experience in Washington, if you pursue the right policy in the right way, you will eventually prevail.

The former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, once said: Change before you have to. It is far, far better for the industry to rally around this commonsense bill, which has the support of many in this room and the support of outside industry as well, particularly those in animal welfare. It is far, far worse to have federal legislation thrust upon you.

For all the arguments made against the Horseracing Integrity Act, the opposition cannot refute that the horse under this bill is treated better or that the playing field is more fair for the owner, trainer, jockey, and horseplayer.

Let me address one of the weaker arguments made against the bill that must be rebutted. Opponents say that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which under the bill would run the Horseracing Anti-Doping Authority, shouldn't be involved because they don't know anything about horse racing. Well, that's like saying Ernst & Young isn't qualified to be Nike's accountants because they don't know anything about sneakers. Successful anti-doping programs are about systems put in place, the independence of the tester, the quality of the tests, and uniformity of the rules. That is the true value of teaming with USADA. The Horseracing Integrity Act will ensure the rights of the owners, trainers, betters, and, most importantly, the equine athletes are protected. The board of this new anti-doping entity will ensure that it will.

Under the act, the Horseracing Anti-Doping board will include individuals with vast horse racing experience serving alongside USADA representatives. Unlike the current system, no one on that board will have an active financial interest in the sport, ensuring no conflicts of interest.

At this podium five years ago, Travis Tygart, the CEO of USADA, recounted the anti-doping movement undertaken in the late 1990s in the wake of the Olympic doping scandals. Like the racing industry, many in Olympic sport were worried about ceding control to an independent doping organization. Now the U.S. boasts the gold standard of anti-doping, and, most importantly, the most decorated Olympic athletes in the world. Independent, uniform anti-doping programs work, and they make the sports they manage stronger.

While we have a growing coalition of support of Horseracing Integrity Act, we still need more support, and we need everyone who wants to finally fix this glaring problem to reach out to their members of congress and senators and urge them to support the Horseracing Integrity Act.

Let me close by saying it's been a great honor to work with so many people in the industry who truly care about the future of horse racing. Thoroughbred owners may bear the brunt in the near term of additional cost of a better regulatory system, but their dedication and commitment will pay dividends for the entire sport of horse racing when the Horseracing Integrity Act eventually becomes law. Thank you very much.


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