Delaware commission voices opposition to federal legislation

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: July 13, 2017

The Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission July 12 said it will send a letter to members of Congress signaling its opposition to the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017.

DTRC Chairman Duncan Patterson said the issue of federal legislation that would give the United States Anti-Doping Agency authority over equine medication policy, testing, and penalty enforcement was discussed earlier by a large group of members of the Association of Racing Commissioners International. The suggestion was made that each state regulatory agency that opposes the bill formally notify members of Congress; others have or plan to do so.

The Horseracing Integrity Act, introduced in late May, is a revised version of the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015. It now includes Standardbred and Quarter Horse racing as well as ban on the race-day anti-bleeding medication Lasix, the only therapeutic medication legally permitted within 24 hours of a race.

“The new legislation includes the Quarter Horses and Standardbreds, which doesn’t do the bill’s proponents any good because both are adamantly opposed,” Patterson said. “In addition, they tried to elicit The Stronach Group’s support to ban Lasix, which is something the majority of horsemen’s groups are adamantly against.”

DTRC members and staff also discussed background on how testing under USADA would work. DTRC Executive Director John Wayne said earlier discussions with the organization revealed there would be a four- to six-week turnaround on test results.

Patterson said laboratories employed by racing jurisdiction have the same instrumentation and capabilities as any used by USADA. He said the industry could better use the about $3 million he indicated has been spent on lobbying for federal legislation to perform research and identify substances for which there currently are no tests.

“It’s really a power play by The Jockey Club but also a response to the fact we don’t yet have 100% uniformity (in medication rules and drug testing),” Patterson said. “But we’ve made great strides in uniformity. That $3 million could go a long way.”

The federal bill is being pushed by the Coalition for Horseracing Integrity, of which The Jockey Club is a member.

Most horsemen’s groups in the U.S. oppose the legislation and recently sent a letter to members of Congress who head the Energy and Commerce Committee and Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, where the bill now sits. The measure states that the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Authority, whose members would be selected by USADA, would fall under the Federal Trade Commission.

In other business, the DTRC postponed a review of proposed advance deposit wagering legislation after it learned the bill was pulled from consideration–for now.

Kevin DeLucia, Delaware Park Senior Vice President of Racing and Finance, explained that racing interests must also pursue a constitutional amendment because pari-mutuel wagering, by state law, can only take place within the confines of a racetrack. The legislation will be re-introduced along with a constitutional amendment, which can’t be on the ballot until 2019 at the earliest under the state’s legislative schedule.

The legislation, which had cleared the House Gaming and Pari-Mutuels Committee, as currently written would establish source-market fees that would be split between the racetracks and purse accounts.

(Delaware Park photo by Tom LaMarra)