Federal Horse Racing Safety Rules Blocked in Louisiana, West Virginia

Posted on: July 28, 2022, 03:55h. 

Last updated on: July 28, 2022, 08:05h.

Louisiana and West Virginia have obtained a preliminary injunction from a US District Judge in Lafayette to prevent enforcement of new federal rules on racetrack safety in the two states. The Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) will come into effect everywhere else in the country from July 1.

horse racing
The horse racing industries of West Virginia and Louisiana, pictured, will not be bound by the rules of the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act for now. (Image: Shreveport Times)

The injunction will stay in place pending the resolution of a wider case brought by the two states that challenges the constitutionality of the new law.

Passed by the US Congress in December 2020, the Act established national safety standards for the horse racing industry to replace the state-by-state regulatory system. It also created an agency to oversee the industry and enforce the new rules, the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Authority (HISA).

The legislation was largely spurred by recent high-profile doping scandals and by a desire to create uniformity around anti-doping measures.

The 18-month window between enactment and implementation of the new rules was designed to give HISA and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) time to agree a deal for the latter to conduct drug testing for the sport. Those talks fell through, which meant HISA turned to Missouri-based Drug Free Sport International instead.

Racing Commissions Pick Up Cost

Several states, along with their racing authorities and industry bodies, have pushed back against the new regulations. In addition to Louisiana and West Virginia, federal lawsuits seeking to challenge the law have been filed in Texas and Kentucky.

Plaintiffs’ primary complaint is the expense associated with more stringent testing and the lack of federal funding to support HISA’s directives.

With no funding mechanism, the costs will be transferred onto state racing commissions, critics say. The Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association has estimated increased costs of around $780 million per annum.  

This will likely shrink prize purses and that will pile economic pressure onto owners and trainers. Betting pools, too, will likely take a hit, making horse racing less attractive to gamblers.

‘Half-Baked at Best’

Plaintiffs also argue that it’s a states’ rights issue. They say the Act violates the non-delegation doctrine of the US Constitution. That’s because it bestows governmental authority over states to a private organization. HISA is a private non-profit overseen by the Federal Trade Commission.

“I firmly believe the people of Louisiana should be in control of this activity, not political and corporate elites in some faraway place, all because of a problem that surfaced in California,” said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry in a statement earlier this month.

HISA has created a regulatory scheme that is, at best, half-baked and harmful to everyone in the industry it purports to exist to protect and at worst unconstitutional,” he added.

The constitutional argument has not held up well in Texas and Kentucky, where judges ruled that the Act was not an unlawful delegation of power to the federal agency by Congress. Both determined that the FTC had sufficient authority over HISA, which made it subordinate to the commission, and not the other way around.

The two cases are under appeal.

Steve Bittenbender contrinuted to this report.