Gov. Gavin Newsom backs bill to expand state board’s power to shut down horse racing

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Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his support Thursday for Senate Bill 469, which would expand the authority of the California Horse Racing Board to shut down or move racing dates on short notice.

The CHRB already has the authority to suspend a track’s license or move its racing dates but must follow public-notice requirements that can drag the process out for weeks. SB 469 would allow the board to meet with little public notice in emergency situations and make changes with the agreement of four of its members. Should there be fewer than four members present for such a meeting, actions could be taken by a unanimous vote.

“The recent horse fatalities in California are unacceptable,” Newsom said. “We must hold the horse racing industry to account. If we can regulate horse race meets, we should have the ability to suspend licenses when animal or human welfare is at risk.”

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The bill, sponsored by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), has no significant opposition in its current form. The bill could still be amended. The hope is that the bill clears Assembly committees in June and is voted on before the July 12 recess. The bill has already cleared the Senate.


The drastic measure of suspending a license and moving race dates bubbled up when Santa Anita suffered 23 deaths between Dec. 26 and March 31. But then the track had an unprecedented run of six weeks without a fatality and talk of moving dates subsided.

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However, Santa Anita has had three fatalities in nine days ending over the Memorial Day weekend. There are 12 racing days left in the meeting, with no Grade 1s, the top races, scheduled. Closing day is June 23.

Los Alamitos will then race for three weeks before Del Mar opens it summer meeting on July 17.