Maryland Racing Commission votes to not collect HISA assessments

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: April 5, 2022

The Maryland Racing Commission April 5 voted unanimously to not collect and remit the annual assessments that will be charged by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority beginning July 1, 2022.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act became law in late December 2020, but its rules and regulations—only for its Racetrack Safety Program—do not take effect until July 1, 2022. The Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program was delayed until January 2023.

If state racing regulatory agencies decide not to collect and remit HISA assessments, the duty falls to the covered racetracks under the HISA law. The New Jersey Racing Commission in March also opted to not handle the assessments.

MRC Executive Director Mike Hopkins told the commission he discussed the matter with legal counsel that said there is “no statute, regulation or contract that gives the racing commission authority” to remit and collect the fees. Assistant Attorney General Eric London, who serves as MRC counsel, said he concurred with Hopkins.

“We do not have statutory authority to do what they are asking us to do,” MRC Chairman Michael Algeo said before calling for a motion on the vote. Algeo, a retired Maryland Circuit Court judge, said he also reviewed state statutes.

According to the proposed Methodology for Determining Assessment Rule approved April 1 by the Federal Trade Commission, the 2022 HISA budget is $14.3 million. A state-by-state spreadsheet shows Maryland’s share is $692,548, while a racetrack spreadsheet puts Laurel Park’s share at $414,934 and Pimlico Race Course’s share at $253,609.

The 2022 assessments are based on 2021 Thoroughbred data for purses and number of starts per racetrack. HISA in a letter to the MRC and other racing regulatory agencies said it is considering an amendment to the rule that will “calculate a true-up of the assessments for next year’s calculation based on the actual starts and purses paid in the previous year. This will mean that if a state’s assessment amount is different when the actual 2021 numbers are utilized, a credit or debit will be made to the 2023 assessment in order to align the final numbers.”