Congressional subcommittee sets hearing on Horseracing Integrity Act

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: June 19, 2018

A subcommittee of the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce has scheduled the first hearing on the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 for the morning of June 22.

The Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection set the hearing for 9 a.m. EDT at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. The legislation, introduced in the House of Representatives in late May last year, is a revised version of a bill that was unveiled in 2015. The bill still hasn’t been introduced in the Senate.

The Horseracing Integrity Act would create the “independent” Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority and designate the United States Anti-Doping Agency as the official organization for equine medication policy, testing and enforcement. The chief executive officer of USADA, currently Travis Tygart, would serve on the authority, as would six USADA board members and six others from the equine industry as selected by USADA.

The measure pertains to Thoroughbred, Standardbred and Quarter Horse racing and would ban the use of the race-day anti-bleeding medication Lasix. Initial funding for the authority would come from “loans obtained by and donations made to” the organization, which would be “vested with the same anti-doping and medication control powers over horseracing licensees as the state racing commission have in their respective states.” Going forward, state racing regulators would be assessed fees based on number of starters to cover the authority’s costs.

The Horseracing Integrity Act would fall under the Federal Trade Commission, whose mission is to “protect consumers and promote competition.”

The subcommittee in a release said sports integrity and safety fall under its jurisdiction, and that its members will hear a “broad range of perspectives” about horse racing and its current regulatory framework. Pari-mutuel wagering on horse races—and gambling in general—is regulated by individual states.

“Horse racing has a storied history in the U.S. and remains an economic driver throughout much of the country,” said U.S. Rep. Robert Latta, an Ohioan who chairs the subcommittee. “Our upcoming hearing will provide important perspectives on the current state of the industry. I look forward to hearing more about the legislative framework surrounding the sport and potential policy implications for the future.”

Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Chairman Alan Foreman is among those who have been asked to provide testimony at the hearing. The THA, like the vast majority of horsemen’s groups in the country, opposes the federal bill. The THA instead has been at the forefront of the National Uniform Medication Program and a recent effort to win legislative approval in Mid-Atlantic states for an interstate compact that would facilitate passage of uniform regulations related to medication and testing.

The official witness list had not be released as of the morning of June 19, but according to Daily Racing Form, the following will join Foreman in providing testimony: Ed Martin, President of the Association of Racing Commissioners International; Eric Hamelback, Chief Executive Officer of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association; Stuart Janney III, Chairman of The Jockey Club, the primary supporter of the Horseracing Integrity Act; Kitty Block, President of the Humane Society of the United States; and Craig Fravel, CEO of Breeders’ Cup.

The reported list of those asked to testify at the hearing represents a major change from previous congressional hearings on similar bills in that it is balanced. It’s not uncommon for the authors—and supporters—of any legislation to stack hearings, and that has been the case in the past regarding bills related to medication and drug testing in horse racing. The bill, being pushed by a group called the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, was written by attorneys affiliated with The Jockey Club.

Related documents, testimony, and a link to a live webcast of the hearing will be available via the committee’s website.

Meanwhile, word is circulating that Congress intends to soon schedule a hearing on federal legislation involving sports betting, which states can now authorize given the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.