A lot has been written over the years about what the Arima Race Club can do to revive the local sport with inadequate attention paid to what the other regulatory bodies can do. There are essentially three regulators for the sport of kings in Trinidad (There is no horse racing in Tobago).
The three regulators are the Arima Race Club (ARC), the Betting Levy Board (BLB) and the T&T Racing Authority (TTRA).
The first point to note is that while the Board of the ARC is voluntary, the Boards of the other two entities are state boards that are appointed and the members are paid by the Government of T&T.
However, what is interesting is that unlike other state boards such as TSTT, NGC and NFM etc, it appears that there's no accountability measures for the Board of Directors. Payment without accountability is usually a recipe for disaster.
Another point to note with the composition of the various boards is that there is representation on those boards by defunct racing entities in this country. There is no longer any racing in Tobago for more than a decade now and so the Tobago Race Club is a fallacy (although it is understood that there is a sizeable sum of money in the Tobago Race Club account to date), likewise, the Union Park Turf Club ceased to stage racing in Marabella long before the racetrack was converted to the Manny Ramjohn Stadium.
Notwithstanding their status as non-operational, both entities are entitled to have representation on these state boards. This is, of course, a direct result of the archaic legislation upon which these state boards were founded (circa the 1960s). Surely someone can see the flaw in this and move to revise the composition of the boards.
Having representation from entities with no active involvement in horse racing is like having no representation since their views are meaningless. Those individuals should be asked to resign, and even if they cannot be replaced because of the legislation, at least the GOTT will save some board fees.
Another point to note is the obvious conflict of interest in having as Chairman of the regulator, that is the TTRA, an entity appointed by the GOTT, an individual who is also an employee of the GOTT. And not just an ordinary employee either.
An employee whose profession has a direct impact on the success of the sport.
The conflict arises since that person can't remove his hat as a state veterinarian when having to deliberate over crucial issues for the sport itself, even if intrinsically he so desires.
One example of which is the current imbroglio over the viability of importing animals from Venezuela to boost the local horse population. Horses from Venezuela can travel to the United States of America and race following a quarantine period but cannot come to Trinidad and race after a reasonable quarantine period.
Horses from Venezuela which placed first and second in the recent Classico del Caribe, reflective of the quality of their stock notwithstanding the country’s economic woes. Unconfirmed reports suggest that based on the negligible value of the Venezuelan Bolivar, this country would be able to double its horse population at a relatively low cost if their horses were allowed into this country. Concerns have been expressed about the quality of our quarantine facilities relative to those in Miami, USA but if that is a concern, then we can arrange to quarantine the horses there – once it is for a reasonable period that is consistent with what the United States laws would require.
It will add to the cost but can be considered as an interim measure.
This approach has been suggested in some quarters but does not appear to find favour with the TTRA Chairman / Lead Country Veterinarian which if accurate can lead many to question the rationale. No one person in horseracing or sport generally should be a law unto themselves. The remainder of the TTRA board may have no equal voice.
Another travesty is the opening of the Club for gambling on Sundays.
The new legislation seems to allow it but since that legislation remains stuck in the mud somewhere, those with the requisite authority need to do like what is being done with the new Marijuana legislation and take a common-sense approach to Sunday betting in the interim.
If the physical opening of betting shops is a bridge too far for some, then at least allow online gambling. This just requires a flick of a switch and the ARC will have access to a previously closed avenue for additional revenue. This revenue is needed. Gambling on a Sunday was prohibited in the Victorian age.
We are in the Elizabethan age. England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, all countries with stronger religious moorings than we ever had, and despite that gambling is allowed on Sundays with physical shops open. And finally, electronic betting is surely a no brainer.