MD Jockey Injury Compensation Fund bill passes both houses

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: April 4, 2018

Legislation that allows the Maryland Jockey Injury Compensation Fund to cover licensed jockeys during training hours at a racetrack or training facility licensed by the Maryland Racing Commission has passed both the Senate and House of Delegates and awaits the signature of Gov. Larry Hogan.

The bill passed the Senate on a 46-0 vote April 3, and previously cleared the House on a 136-0 vote. It’s the second racing-related bill to pass both houses unanimously during the 2018 General Assembly; the first one authorizes Maryland to launch and offer the Interstate Anti-Doping and Drug-Testing Compact.

The Maryland Jockey Injury Compensation Fund is financially supported by a contribution from the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and a $100 fee paid by owners and trainers each year when they are licensed. This year’s policy, approved by the racing commission, will cost roughly $900,000, MRC Executive Mike Hopkins said.

Hopkins noted that exercise riders aren’t covered under the fund but rather by workers’ compensation policies paid for by trainers. The legislation states that jockeys will be covered during training hours “if the principal earnings of the jockey are based on money earned as a jockey during live racing and not as an exercise rider.”

Hopkins said the actual impact on the Maryland Jockey Injury Compensation Fund policy won’t be known for at least a year because the cost of the policy is based on injuries. The change in language will take effect Oct. 1, 2018.

“It really won’t change anything (at the outset),” Hopkins said. “It’s all based on payroll and experience with the cost of training injuries.”

Maryland Jockey Club President Sal Sinatra said the legislation is another important step for Maryland racing.

“We want to make sure our athletes are covered,” Sinatra said. “We don’t want there to be a delay in benefits or treatments (after an injury). I’m very happy with it.”

The Interstate Anti-Doping and Drug-Testing Standards Compact, which also awaits Hogan’s signature, would enable member states to simultaneously adopt regulations or updates to regulations after the customary review and adoption by individual racing regulatory agencies. The Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association has been working with Mid-Atlantic racing regulators to get legislation introduced in their respective states.

The effort dovetails with passage of the National Uniform Medication Program in Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. Other states that intend to move the compact legislation this year are Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

More on the compact is available here.

(Laurel Park photo by Tom LaMarra)