Horse racing
The Breeders’ Cup World Championships in Del Mar. Photo by Cynthia Lum/Icon Sportswire

Of the two current ballot initiatives to legalize sports betting, Proposition 26 is by far the most harmful and takes California’s leadership on animal welfare issues in the wrong direction.

The San Diego Humane Society is deeply concerned by a provision in Prop. 26 that will give millions of dollars to four privately owned horse racetracks through a lucrative new revenue stream from sports betting at their facilities. This measure is a lifeline to an industry that is less popular than ever and has a controversial history. 

The provision in Prop 26. that will financially bail out the horse racing industry and allow it to continue operating in California in perpetuity is sufficient alone to deserve your “no” vote. 

Animal welfare groups like ours remain highly concerned about the horse racing industry, as horse deaths at facilities regulated by the California Horse Racing Board have soared in recent years. Over the last decade, more than 1,600 horses have died as a result of training or racing related incidents.

Shockingly, even with this staggering statistic, Prop. 26 will directly subsidize this special interest industry with a history of unsafe practices in the name of profitability. Unless voters defeat Prop. 26, it will perpetuate the horse racing industry by allowing racetracks to accept sports wagers at their facilities, generating tens of millions of dollars in new revenue. 

Horseracing, as it now exists in the United States, deprives animals of their most basic freedoms. The horses often experience pain, injury, fear and distress. Racing is not part of normal horse behavior and sadly, too often they are pushed to their death.

For years, horse racing has been declining in popularity, and attendance was already dramatically down at racetracks even before the COVID-19 pandemic began. On its current trajectory, horse racing will likely disappear from California due to its dwindling interest and revenue.

We should not artificially preserve this harmful sport that hurts innocent animals. Yet, Prop. 26 hands millions of dollars to special interest racetracks, enabling them to continue operating despite their concerning animal safety record and declining popularity with Californians.

What’s worse, as the profitability of horse racing declines, Prop. 26 mandates that horse races be run to maintain the ability for tracks to offer non-horse race-related sports betting. Therefore, even if a racetrack wanted to eliminate live horse racing in favor of more lucrative sports betting, they legally could not under Prop. 26.

Prop. 26 is a flagrant violation of animal welfare. It is imperative to stop the cycle of unnecessary horse deaths in California and prevent a multi-million dollar bailout for the horse racing industry.

We strongly urge you to protect innocent animals by voting “no” on Prop. 26. 

Gary Weitzman, DVM, is president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society.


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Ellen Bullock