Nebraska’s Sage back as ARCI chair

March 10, 2023

Tom Sage. (Jennie Rees/ARCI photo)

‘Our agenda remains simple: To do the right thing,’ he says.

ARCI Press Release

NEW ORLEANS, La. — Tom Sage, the executive director of the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission, is the new chairman of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI), the umbrella organization representing governmental regulators of horse and greyhound racing.

While ARCI chairs serve one-year terms, Sage actually has experience in the board’s top spot. He first served as chairman in 2020. But with COVID wreaking havoc on the industry, Sage was awarded a subsequent term — and another that promises to be unprecedented and eventful.

This time, the racing industry faces seismic changes under the Horse Racing Integrity & Safety Act (HISA), which itself faces multiple legal challenges to the federal law that ceded to a private Authority some key roles previously the domain of state regulators. The court cases include a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling HISA unconstitutional, while the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals last week ruled it constitutional.

“Our U.S. members face enormous problems caused by the uncertainty of the implementation of the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act and its programs,” Sage said in addressing the ARCI. “… One of the original goals of the act was to have uniformity, clarity and simplification. Almost two years (into it), we have uncertainty and confusion, both coming at a considerable cost to this industry. HISA can work. Our president, Mr. (Ed) Martin, says it can. I’m not so sure.

“To do that, HISA at the very least would have to revisit how they have structured their program. What would be required? Admit there have been missteps. I’m not convinced they can do that. Perhaps the biggest question is whether thoroughbred racing can afford and survive the HISA program. Or is there a better way to achieve the act’s intention? There are states and racetracks considering the elimination of simulcast exports to free them from the regulatory burdens and HISA costs. I know that. One of my tracks, my state, is doing that right now. We’re not simulcasting because of the costs and the fears. I also know – quietly – that there are other states considering the same. And these are states you’d never think would consider.

“If thoroughbred racing opportunities diminish because of HISA, not only will the horsemen and those working at racetracks be impacted, so will the thoroughbred breeders and the agriculture industry in our states. From where we stand, it is hard to watch… There’s an expectation in some parts of the industry that all regulatory turmoil and new costs will result in fewer breakdowns, fewer equine deaths and apprehend more criminals. We’ll see. We call it like it is, realizing not everyone will like what we say. To us, integrity counts more than narrative. Our agenda remains simple: To do the right thing.”

Sage thanked outgoing ARCI chair, Louisiana Racing Commission executive director Charles Gardiner III, along with the ARCI staff and the Nebraska commission and staff.

“This organization has been a beacon of animal wellness and integrity in our sport,” he said. “We consistently work to get it right, and never assume that improvements cannot be made…. We rise above the politics of the industry, and we are respectful for giving a fair assessment for every issue we encounter. Unlike some other organizations, everyone has a seat at our table.”

Under the ARCI, the board votes on a chair-elect, who assumes the chairmanship. The new chair-elect is Doug Moore, who was appointed to the Washington Horse Racing Commission’s board after retiring as its executive director. Anthony Salerno of the Pennsylvania Racing Commission was selected treasurer, which puts him in line to be the next chair-elect.

Sage’s career in horse racing began as a security officer in 1988 at Omaha’s long-gone Ak-Sar-Ben Racetrack. He graduated in 1991 from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a bachelor’s of science in criminal justice, going to work for the Nebraska Racing Commission in 1993 as an investigator. A 1995 graduate of the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center, Sage was promoted to director of investigations in 2003, taking over as executive director of the racing commission in 2008.

Contributing Authors

MariBeth Kalinich, Senior Editor, Past the Wire

Maribeth Kalinich, Senior Editor, Graphic Designer

Maribeth Kalinich grew up in a family with a love for horses, a passion for Thoroughbred horse racing and a taste for playing the ponies....

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@jonathanstettin u should really do a 2 minute Past The Wire recorded segment for @Steve_Byk Monday Morning. Very grounded, excellent stuff

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