San Diego Democrats Want Ban on State-Sponsored Horse Race Gambling

Posted on: October 28, 2021, 04:50h. 

Last updated on: October 28, 2021, 05:10h.

San Diego Democrats have voted overwhelmingly to commit to banning gambling on state-sponsored horse racing in California.

Del mar horse racing
Horse racing has taken place at the state-owned Del Mar Racetrack, seen above, since 1937. But local Democrats want to end state support. (Image: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club)

On Tuesday, the San Diego Democratic Central Committee passed a resolution by 37-4 in support of striking live horse race wagering from the state constitution. This would mean the end of state financial subsidies for racing in California.

The resolution holds no weight – yet. It merely signifies the intent of San Diego Democratic legislative delegation to introduce a bill that would place the issue on the 2022 state ballot.

That bill would first need to be approved by two thirds of the legislature and then by a public majority to become law.

San Diego County is home to the state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds and the Del Mar Racetrack, which hosts the annual San Diego County Fair. The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club leases the facilities from the state for their live meets, which this year includes the Breeders’ Cup.

Different Attitudes

“When we look at changes in attitudes towards these types of animal sports, we don’t do dogfighting, we don’t do cockfighting. We don’t do bullfighting,” San Diego central committee member Lori Saldaña told 10News.

If we are going to have state horse racing commission and state fairgrounds like Del Mar that subsidize this horse racing, and we end up having a cash flow problem as a result. We need to address that from a financial and economic standpoint.” she said.

Betting on horse racing was legalized by California voters in 1933 as a way to generate money for the state, she added.

Racing has come under increased scrutiny recently because of a spate of equine deaths, including at Del Mar. San Diego County Dems say there is a moral as well as a financial obligation to support the resolution.

In 2019, at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., 30 horses died within a six-month period, throwing the industry into hard focus. According to US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), more than 3,000 horses have died at California racetracks in the past 20 years.

Resolution Not a Ban on Racing

But Saldaña emphasized the intention is not to ban horse racing in California, merely to scrub it off the state constitution.

The article in question states: “The legislature may provide for the regulation of horse races and horse race meetings and wagering on the results.”

“If [the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club] want[s] to build their own facilities, separate from state facilities, and if they want to generate their own revenues and they can cover their expenses, they are free and able to do so,” Saldaña said.

Alternatively, the sport could receive funding from a future California sports betting market. That has been projected to be worth over $4 billion, she suggested.