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USTA calls on industry to oppose H.R.2651
Tuesday, May 29, 2018 - from the USTA Communications Department

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Columbus, OH --- In the June 2018 issue of Hoof Beats, USTA President Russell Williams outlined the USTA’s opposition to the proposed legislation, H.R.2651, being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives.

We’re calling on everyone in the harness racing industry to contact their local legislators to express your opposition to this bill. Read on to find out how and why.

If you need further information or have any questions, please contact USTA Director of Marketing and Communications Dan Leary at dan.leary@ustrotting.com and put “H.R.2651” in the subject line.

Don’t We Have Better Things to Do?
by Russell Williams, USTA president

Proposed House bill H.R.2651 is federal legislation that isn’t good for harness racing

State governments, through their racing commissions, have regulated medication in horse racing for about 60 years. The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017, or H.R.2651, now pending in Congress, would preempt long-established state regulatory authority, add about three new layers of regulation at the federal level, and impose the costs of it all on horse racing.

H.R.2651 proposes a private, independent, self-regulatory, nonprofit corporation to be known as the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority (HAMCA). HAMCA would be charged with developing and implementing a medication control program for Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, and Quarter Horses. It would operate under the ultimate authority of the Federal Trade Commission rather than the Department of Agriculture.

At the next level down, HAMCA’s board would be composed as follows: the chief operating officer of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), six USADA members, and six members that USADA would appoint. The odds on whether any of the 13 members of this board might have any connection with harness racing are impossible to calculate, partly because at no point has anyone representing harness racing been consulted in the preparation of this legislation, with the possible exception of three harness tracks all controlled by the same person.

H.R.2651 is the brainchild of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity (CHRI), which alleges failure to finalize an interstate compact on racing medication as the reason this federal legislation is needed. The Jockey Club, along with a number of Thoroughbred entities that The Jockey Club guides for purposes of this legislative enterprise, leads CHRI. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is also a member of CHRI.

Contrary to law and policy existing today in every racing state, H.R.2651 bans all race-day medication. Frank Stronach asked for this as a precondition to the Stronach Group (which owns six Thoroughbred tracks across the country) joining CHRI. This clause in the federal bill would ban the use of furosemide (marketed under the brand names Lasix or Salix). But the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) opposes such a ban, observing that there is no evidence that furosemide either enhances performance or masks substances that might do so, and that using the only medication proven to alleviate exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage is simply the humane way to race horses.

Also on the humane front, in the September/October 2017 issue of its magazine, HSUS describes the use of furosemide, the only medication currently permitted on race day, as follows: “Currently, a patchwork of state laws enables trainers to give horses drugs that mask pain, allowing the animals to race even when injured.”

As a revealing aside, in April 2018, HSUS condemned anyone who would call for “a heavy-handed government to impose its will from Washington.” HSUS used those words in opposing a separate piece of federal legislation. But HSUS evidently supports heavy-handed government in the case of H.R.2651. Unfortunately, by spreading among its many members (HSUS has claimed to have millions of members) an opinion that is unfounded and contrary to the official position of veterinary medicine, HSUS is only darkening the future of all types of horse racing.

The federal bill disregards any differences between the racing models of different breeds. State racing commissions, on the other hand, and the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) do recognize the importance of these differences in regulating racing medication.

Historically, Congress has appropriated federal anti-doping funds and granted them to USADA to help cover the cost of drug testing in human sports, which is USADA’s sole area of expertise. But H.R.2651 contains no provision for federal funding for HAMCA. Instead, it imposes assessments on state racing commissions as its basic funding mechanism.

HAMCA can also borrow money, and the bill states that assessments on state commissions can be used to liquidate loans. Yet HAMCA gets to determine its own budget, giving it a blank check to impose unlimited new costs on racing.

It is only reasonable to project that the operating costs that HAMCA would impose on racing would be substantial. For example, in calendar year 2016, state racing commission expenditures in Pennsylvania alone exceeded $16 million. If more money is to be spent, instead of supporting a redundant, inexperienced, and uncontrolled new federal spending organization, we should consider supporting existing medication research as well as any of the other efforts that are already being made to support and improve the sport.

Contact your legislators and ask them to oppose H.R.2651 and any companion legislation that may emerge in the Senate. You can find your representative in the House at www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative and your senator at www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_correspond_senators.htm.

* * *

Following is a sample letter that you can use to send by email or regular mail to your Congressman/Congresswoman. Or as an alternative, you are encouraged to call your representative to express your opposition to H.R.2651.

Date

Honorable XX
XX [OFFICE BUILDING] House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman/Congresswoman XX [Last name]: 

As you know, several states support and host pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing. On the other hand, in some states that do not host such betting, there are significant horse breeding and training businesses throughout the state, along with county fair racing, for example. Many of our state’s residents, including myself, enjoy and are supportive of the horse industry. In that context, I and many others who are supportive of the horse industry are very concerned about, and have strong feelings against, H.R.2651, the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2017.

If enacted, H.R.2651 would be significantly burdensome to the horse industry in that it would create a new, duplicative regulatory bureaucracy at the federal level, on top of an existing state regulatory structure that is operated in 34 state racing jurisdictions around the country -- a system that has functioned well for over 100 years. Moreover, it is likely that this new bureaucracy would create a new structure of fees and taxes to cover some of the federal costs of the new regulatory structure, and those fees and taxes would come from horse owners and the industry at-large.

In addition to the regulatory burdens noted above which would be created under H.R.2651, the bill seeks to ban the drug Lasix, or Furosemide. This drug is used in horses to control or prevent Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhages (EIPH), or “bleeding.” Horses often experience EIPH during intense exercise, such as during races.

Lasix is recognized as an effective, preventative treatment for “bleeding” in the lungs of horses, which is the reason its use is recognized by the North American Association of Racetrack Veterinarians and the American Association of Equine Practitioners as safe and effective. These veterinarians believe that the use of Lasix to treat “bleeders” is in the health and welfare interests of the animals.

According to a recent American Horse Council study, the horse racing industry contributes some $36 billion annually to the national economy and provides about 240,000 direct jobs. Any measure which will add further regulatory and cost burdens will only harm those state and local economies that depend on the industry. Accordingly, I urge you to oppose H.R.2651 or any identical or similar companion measure.

Sincerely,


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