The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association will appeal a federal judge’s decision to toss its lawsuit that claims the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is unconstitutional.
The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) and its affiliates in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia, alleged that the federal Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority is illegal because it delegates legislative authority to a private organization and private individuals.
“Aspects of this law will have a devastating effect on our industry and put many hardworking horsemen and horsewomen out of business,” says Eric Hamelback, chief executive officer of HBPA. “We’ve been saying for several years that this legislation was illegal. We are considering our options to appeal the decision and remain committed to doing due diligence to ensure a legal solution that protects the health and welfare of our equine and human athletes is adopted.”
The Authority is responsible for implementing anti-doping and racetrack safety protocols, regulations and penalties. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), a private organization, is enforcing the drug control program. The law, which was passed as part of the Dec. 21, 2020, COVID-19 stimulus bill, was a response from federal lawmakers after a series of doping scandals and equine racetrack fatalities.
“The Court recognizes that HISA’s regulatory model pushes the boundaries of public/private Collaboration,” according to Judge James Wesley Hendrix’s March 31, 2022, ruling. “The Court also acknowledges the dramatic change that HISA imposes nationwide on the Thoroughbred horseracing industry. But that change resulted from a decision of the people through Congress. And despite its novelty, the law as constructed stays within current constitutional limitations as defined by the Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit.”
Despite the decision, the HBPA was buoyed by the judge’s comments that “although the Horsemen make compelling arguments that HISA goes too far, only appellate courts may expand or constrict precent. This Court cannot.”
“We are encouraged that Judge Hendrix recognized the strength of our arguments and plan to push them vigorously on appeal,” says Daniel Suhr, managing attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “Congress cannot cede its legal authority to regulate an entire industry to a private organization. This case remains important to protect the integrity of not only the horseracing industry but also our Constitution.”
The law allows the Authority to draft governmental rules on equine medication and safety; impose fees to horse owners and trainers to finance operations; determine rule violations, impose penalties and sanctions; issue subpoenas and investigate alleged violations, and launch civil actions in federal court to enforce rules. Although the Federal Trade Commission has the authority to reject or request the modification of rules established by the Authority, it cannot draft rules or enforce rules.
HISA faces another legal challenge, as well. A separate lawsuit alleging HISA is unconstitutional has been filed by the state of Oklahoma; the Oklahoma Racing Commission; the state of West Virginia; the West Virginia Racing Commission; the United States Trotting Association (USTA); the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association; Hanover Shoe Farms, Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority, which owns Fair Meadows Racing and Sports Bar; Global Gaming, which owns Remington Park; and Will Rogers Downs.