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FACT SHEET:
Why Horse Racing and Gambling
are Bad Business for Georgia

A diverse coalition of Georgia-based organizations is opposed to horse racing, as well as legalization of gambling on horse racing.  The rationale for this opposition primarily falls into two categories: (1) financial red flags, and (2) ethical concerns over horse welfare and safety.

 

Financial Red Flags:

  • Horse racing is an industry in decline with a shrinking customer base.  Since 2000, 41 racetracks have permanently closed in the U.S.  In contrast, only two racetracks have successfully opened.

  • Because of this downward trend, horse racing is no longer a self-sustaining business.  Twenty-four state governments subsidize one or more racetracks at an annual cost of approximately $1 billion (e.g., tax breaks).  Over 70% of existing U.S. racetracks depend on casino tax revenue to remain profitable (aka, racinos). 

  • Gambling places additional burdens on already-strained mental health services and law enforcement to deal with associated addiction and crime, respectively.  Casinos are a favored location for human (sex) trafficking, thus creating a grave public safety issue for victims, employees, and patrons.

  • The promise of jobs for Georgians related to horse racing is conflated; in reality, these are low paying and low skill jobs.  High paying jobs go to personnel that travel state to state with their horses (e.g., trainers, jockeys).

  • Discarded racehorses are a hefty burden for taxpayers and charitable donors.  The horse racing industry breeds approximately twice as many foals than are needed, and those that race retire after 3-4 years, creating an enormous surplus of unwanted horses requiring 20-30 years of lifetime aftercare. 

  • The industry donates only a tiny fraction of its revenue for aftercare programs, which falls far short of the tens of millions of dollars needed, relying instead on charitable dollars for rescues, private adoptions, and auctioning excess horses to kill buyers for transport and subsequent slaughter in Mexico and Canada.

  • According to an estimate by Jen Roytz, executive director of the Retired Racehorse Project, the current number of thoroughbred aftercare programs nationwide cannot accommodate half the horses that need rehoming in an average year, even with full funding.

  • Many racehorses retire with severe medical issues such as chronic ulcers; therefore, the cost of aftercare for a racehorse can be thousands of dollars more per year than that for an average horse.

  • Given Georgia’s robust state economy and commitment to public safety and mental health, there’s no need to assume the cost shift and risks inherent in the declining horse racing industry and associated gambling.

 

Ethical Concerns Over Horse Safety and Welfare:

  • Approximately 1,000 racehorse deaths are reported each year on average.  Because off track deaths may go unreported, this number is likely a gross underestimate.  No other sport tolerates such a high incidence of catastrophic injuries and sudden death in athletes. 

  • Implementation of the federal Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) - which would establish uniform anti-doping standards and medication control across all 50 states, has been put on hold due to legal challenges by the horse racing industry.  Thus, Thoroughbreds will continue to be at risk from inconsistent regulatory oversight by states and unscrupulous handlers.  Horse racing has a long history of criminal indictments for doping schemes that garner attention in the national press, including recent indictments of a veterinarian and trainers in 2022.  The Georgia Horse Racing Commission, proposed by state legislation to "oversee" racing and enforce rules, will not be independent but instead will be made up of the very individuals who stand to make money on horseracing (i.e., racehorse owners and trainers).

  • Horse slaughter for human meat consumption is a predatory industry that benefits from retired, unwanted racehorses.  A 2022 poll of Americans showed that 83% are opposed to horse slaughter. 

  • Another abusive, ancillary industry to horseracing is the use of surrogate nurse mares for Thoroughbred foals.  The nurse mare’s biologic foals are slaughtered soon after birth for use as pony leather.

  • Racehorses lead an unnatural existence, confined to stalls when not training and denied social herd interactions.

  • Given these abuses, it’s not surprising that a 2022 public opinion survey (conducted by the industry) revealed that 69% of Americans have concerns about the safety and welfare of horses used in equestrian sports which includes horse racing.

Georgia Companion Animal Advocacy and GA Pet Coalition - Jan 2023

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