Proposition 26, the California ballot initiative to allow sports betting only at tribal-run casinos and racinos, came under fire this week from a new group. In a press release, animal activists blast Prop. 26 over its boost to horse racing.
Ten groups of activists collaborated on the release. They condemn the money the proposition will bring to California horse racing, which they claim is a dangerous, dying industry.
Jill Tucker, CEO of the California Animal Welfare Association, said the in-person California sports betting initiative will not make horses safer:
“Prop. 26 provides a financial ‘shot in the arm’ to private horseracing tracks with no requirement or accountability towards increasing animal safety. This is not good policy as the industry needs to independently improve animal safety to attract back its customer base rather than ignoring these serious challenges and focusing on millions of dollars coming their way due to Prop. 26.”
Activists say horse racing is ‘horse cruelty’
The bulk of the activists’ arguments focused on the dangers of horse racing. In essence, why fund an industry that leads to horse deaths? That is the reason to vote “no” on Prop. 26, said Dr. Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society:
“We are seriously concerned about Proposition 26 as it ignores the animal safety record and instead gives the horse racing industry a new funding stream in the form of millions of dollars. We encourage voters to reject Prop. 26.”
Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, CEO of the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said horse racing amounts to animal cruelty and exploitation:
“If enacted, Prop. 26 will propagate the horse racing industry by allowing horse racetracks to accept sports wagers at their facilities and receive millions of dollars in new revenue. Handing millions of dollars to special interest racetracks will enable them to continue operating despite their concerning animal safety record and declining popularity with Californians.”
Analyzing the claims
The animal activists claim that horse tracks are dangerous and that the racing industry is dying. Are they, and is it?
Is California horse racing a dangerous industry?
Yes and no. The goal of zero horse fatalities at racetracks remains improbable, but tracks are getting considerably safer. The groups made a point to present the number of horse deaths at California tracks over the past three years:
- 2018: 144 deaths
- 2019-2020: 122
- 2020-2021: 72
The data presented in the press release indicate tracks are actually getting safer. Santa Anita Park is one of the state’s most prominent racetracks and endured a rough stretch several years ago. This year, though, Santa Anita’s safety record improved by 62.5%, and the track was considered one of the safest in America.
State-wide trends indicate the sport is getting safer, too. According to San Jose’s The Mercury News, horse racing deaths in California have been cut in half in two years. The story added fatalities have “plummeted to the lowest levels since 1990.”