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Is horse racing now safer for horses? Ask the lawyer

Q: It has been very troubling to read and hear of horses dying, and of apparent corruption in the horse racing industry. What is being done to try to keep the horses safe?

P.M., Yorba Linda

Ron Sokol
Ron Sokol

A: Unlike other major sports and athletic leagues in our country, such as the National Basketball Association, horse racing has not had one set of standards and rules. Punishments for rule violations have also differed based on jurisdiction.

Now, efforts to change the industry have come to bear: At the end of 2020, Congress passed, and the president signed, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which takes effect July 1 this year. The objective is to establish a uniform national standard for thoroughbred racing. Federal enforcement authority will be given to several agencies, including a new independent Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority to govern thoroughbred racing.

Here, in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two bills into law in September 2020 that aim to enhance safety and transparency in horse racing. California’s rules will be stricter than some found in the federal law. There is “push back” about the new federal law and there will no doubt be controversy concerning California’s recent changes, so stay tuned. That said, let’s hope, if not expect, there are notable and needed improvements.

Q: Is there an age minimum in California to be a horse jockey?

P.M., Norco

A: California Code of Regulations, Title 4, Section 1449, sets forth that no person under 16 years of age shall be granted a jockey’s license nor a license as an apprentice jockey. There also is restriction for someone who has never ridden in a race at a recognized facility, but there is a means of obtaining a temporary license or permission for up to four races to establish qualifications.

Q: Is it legal to bet on horses in California?

P.C., Gardena

A: Yes, persons 18 years of age or older can place pari-mutuel wagers on horse races at California racetracks. There are also off-track betting facilities, satellite wagering, and online betting permitted at various sites.

Ron Sokol has been a practicing attorney for over 35 years, and has also served many times as a judge pro tem, mediator, and arbitrator.  It is important to keep in mind that this column presents a summary of the law, and is not to be treated or considered legal advice, let alone a substitute for actual consultation with a qualified professional.

Source: Orange County Register

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