Commentary: Horse Racing Regulators Should Not Be Promoters

by | 10.20.2015 | 8:23am
Jill Long Thompson

Should horse racing regulators be promoters?

Not according to former Indiana Congresswoman Jill Long Thompson, who wrote in the Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, Ind., that “promoting and regulating are two different functions that at times can be at complete odds with one another.”

Thompson Long, who served as board chair and CEO of the Farm Credit Administration, a federal regulatory agency, currently teaches ethics for the Kelly School of Business and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University in Bloomington.

She wrote a commentary for the newspaper in response to the Indiana Horse Racing Commission's dismissal of longtime executive director, Joe Gorajec. In public statements, IHRC chairman Tom Weatherwax said the commission made the change because it wanted its executive director to focus more on promoting Indiana horse racing and breeding.

Thompson Long cited the 65-page statute that authorizes horse racing in the state. She wrote: “It reads, ‘The purpose of this article is to permit pari-mutuel wagering on horse races in Indiana and to ensure that pari-mutuel wagering on horse races in Indiana will be conducted with the highest of standards and the greatest level of integrity.' By law, the commission is charged with regulating to the highest standard.”

The firing of Gorajec “for focusing too much on regulating the industry, the commission made an unethical decision,” she wrote. “As a lifelong Hoosier who loves Indiana, I find myself, once again, disappointed and angered by the lack of ethics exhibited by too many public officials in our state. We can do better.”

Thompson Long said it is understandable that the commission members are concerned with a shrinking industry and lowered tax revenue. “In promoting the industry,” she said, “the state should charge that responsibility to someone other than the director responsible for regulation and oversight.

“Any ethicist worth his or her salt will tell you good promoters do not make good regulators. Giving the promotion responsibility to the regulator is a bad idea.”

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