Pennsylvania revisits interstate compact on medication, testing

Posted: March 27, 2019

The top official with the Association of Racing Commissioners International on March 27 outlined the importance of an interstate compact designed to streamline adoption of model rules that govern equine medication and drug-testing standards.

ARCI President Ed Martin addressed the matter in front of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission, which first took the Interstate Compact on Equine Medication and Drug-Testing Standards under consideration last year. Legislation authorizing the compact for Thoroughbred racing only was introduced in 2018 but hasn’t been acted upon.

The compact was adopted by state legislatures in Delaware and Maryland last year. Martin said the compact is under consideration in several other states—Colorado, Indiana and Virginia give racing regulatory agencies the authority to join; the 2020 Executive Budget in New York contains language that allows the New York State Gaming Commission to enter the compact “to enhance equine drug testing and standardize the ability to maintain the integrity of the racing industry.”

The compact would allow member states to implement previously agreed-upon rules and regulations at the same time. In the Mid-Atlantic region, where the effort began, the rule adoption process varies by state—some can adopt model rules by reference, others must await legislative approval.

“The single-most effective way to keep the federal government from getting involved in your industry is to form an interstate compact,” said Martin, who noted there are 39 other compacts already in place in Pennsylvania. “It seems to be a simple solution. The rules are already vetted before they are adopted. By the time it gets to you (for consideration), it’s generally agreed upon that this is the approach (to take on a rule).”

Any rule proposed by the compact would go through the customary public notice and comment period in each state. For a rule to pass the compact, which would have one representative from each member state, it must have an 80% supermajority vote.

Martin said there is uniformity “on all the big issues,” and that “arguing over minor discrepancies” detracts from the substantial progress that has been made on uniform rules in recent years. He also urged the PHRC to look at the big picture when it comes to the value of membership in the compact.

“The horseracing industry is under attack by organizations and individuals that would like to outlaw horse racing,” Martin said in reference to animal-rights groups. “The industry needs to be collectively aware of that. Anything the industry can do to eliminate some of the arguments against it helps remove those arguments.”

Claims of rampant abuse of medication are “not consistent with the massive amount of drug tests we conduct in this sport,” Martin said. “(On Internet news sites) you see prominent breeders and owners trashing the sport they are invested in. I’ve never seen a sport like this. It’s incumbent upon everyone in this sport to start talking positively about the sport. When you listen to these voices today you get a very different picture.”

The PHRC during the meeting took no action on the compact, but Jorge Augusto, its legal counsel, told Martin a bill with Pennsylvania-centric provisions has been drafted. Meanwhile, the national medication compact and plans for an expanded national licensing compact will be discussed April 2 as part of the ARCI Conference on Animal Welfare and Integrity in California.