In the spring of 2016, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) launched Moving Ahead: Horse Racing Regulation in Ontario, a project directed at identifying and moving forward on common-sense reforms to the regulatory rules that govern horse racing. The Findings Report is available here.
The AGCO sponsored 17 industry roundtables involving industry stakeholders from all three breeds, which generated ideas for reform “focusing on equine and participant health and safety, as well as consistency and transparency in officiating,” according to AGCO CEO, Jean Major.
He added, “The AGCO is reviewing all the findings to identify areas where we can move ahead with reforms. We will be establishing industry working groups to discuss in greater depth, some of the more complex issues that were identified in the consultation.”
Following are the highlights from the four main areas which were identified in these discussions:
Safety & Integrity
In partnership with the CMPA, post-race equine drug testing, out-of-competition drug testing and inspections ensure appropriate use of therapeutic drugs. Based on industry feedback, the AGCO will now review, enhance and remodel numerous equine drug programs.
Industry participants were particularly interested in enhancing equine welfare. It was noted that seeking improvement in this area would help build public confidence. It is of the utmost importance to ensure equine welfare is protected throughout the life cycle of a racehorse and ensure rules and policies are made with equine welfare in mind.
It is believed that higher standards of safety for jockeys, drivers and other participants are required to bring racing in line with other jurisdictions and sporting leagues. Plans need to be put in place to increase overall health of participants by establishing concussion protocols, increasing jockey weights, and formalizing safety standards.
Racetrack Maintenance & Operations
Stakeholders indicated that there are inconsistencies in maintenance protocols from racetrack to racetrack. They would like to see the development of maintenance standards to ensure race paddocks, backstretches and race surfaces are safe for all participants.
Education, Research, Information Sharing
There were requests for improved communication and information sharing, centred on transparancy, clarification and accountability in the industry as a whole. Participants want to simplify the rules and enhance industry education.
Removing Administrative Barriers
AGCO Licensing Modernization
Several ideas were brought forward regarding licencing modernization including moving to online licensing, with the option to purchase a multi-year or multi-breed licence, and ensuring services for licensing at the racetracks remain for those who do not have computer access.
Suggestions were made to ensure a better fit for the needs of the industry and of the AGCO. These include reviewing licensing fees, and determining which industry participants need to be licensed by the AGCO, plus attempting to streamline licensing operations with other racing jurisdictions.
Licensing Fractional Ownership
Stakeholders want to see better support of factional ownership as a source of sustainability. This will begin with clarifying and simplifying licensing requirements for fractional owners, and increasing the percentage required to be licensed as a fractional owner.
Modernizing Regulatory Framework
Officiating & Technological Enhancements
A common theme in the industry feedback was the need to improve consistency and transparency in officiating, through enhanced communications from Race Officials, Race Official training programs, and enhanced video technology used to review races.
Race Official Review Process & Appeals
Stakeholders indicated some concerns regarding the appeals process. They wish to see the Race Official review process and communication processes from Race Officials simplified, and want to allow stays to become automatic at the point of appeal.
Supporting Economic Development & Industry Innovation
Economic stability is only possible if the industry and the AGCO are able to ensure the public that racehorses and participants are treated humanely and fairly. The public would likely not support an industry that is not taking action to prevent substandard racehorse care.
Industry Engagement on Rule Changes
Industry participants want to work in collaboration with the AGCO for development, removal and reform of rules, policies and procedures through a more formalized process. They noted that rule changes should aim to simplify and clarify rules, and protect equine welfare.
The Next Steps
The AGCO will continue to review the feedback from stakeholders in the weeks ahead to identify a number of areas where it is prepared to move ahead with initial reforms and procedures. It will create a series of Working Groups that will be tasked with considering more complex policy reforms that require further discussion and industry input for development and implementation.
Visit racing.agco.on.ca/regulatory/moving-ahead for regular updates and information related to the ACGO Racing Reform Project.