The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association understands that the federal Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) is a topic of great interest – and controversy – to thoroughbred owners and trainers. Below, we summarize our position.
First, The Latest Development
Congress, as part of a sweeping spending bill currently under consideration, is preparing to approve an amendment to HISA that is geared as a “constitutional fix.” The substantive provisions of HISA — those we support, and those we don’t — would remain unchanged.
HISA has been the subject of lawsuits challenging its constitutionality. The measure before Congress is intended to neutralize those legal challenges by strengthening the Federal Trade Commission’s oversight of the non-governmental authority that is responsible for administering the new federal law.
What We Support
The ITHA appreciates the difficulty of tracking and navigating myriad drug testing rules in different states and we, consequently, appreciate the move, embodied by HISA, toward national uniformity of rules pertaining to drug testing.
We support reasonable efforts to make racing a more level playing field.
What We Don’t Support
HISA creates an unfunded mandate for Illinois racing. There is no dedicated source of funding for the regulatory operation of the new law — and the cost burden therefore falls to tracks and horsemen. In the case of Illinois, that cost is approximately $1.3 million to be split between Hawthorne Race Course and the thoroughbred purse account. Especially given the steep challenges already facing Illinois thoroughbred racing, we obviously cannot afford that.
Additionally, HISA will effectively prohibit the use of Lasix in three years. We continue to express to lawmakers and regulatory officials that elimination of Lasix is not tenable for the continuation of thoroughbred horse racing.
Where Our View is Mixed
Some of the rules within the safety component of HISA should be amended and improved. We continue to push for this change.
As one example, the original shoeing rule was too restrictive and we successfully advocated for additional flexibility in that rule. We similarly believe the void claim rule is too subjective and are pursuing modifications.
We also are urging the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority — the administrative body, also known as HISA, of the new federal law — to lessen the bookkeeping burden on trainers and backstretch veterinarians.
What We Have Done
The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, both independently and in concert with the national THA, has been actively engaged with federal officials since HISA’s passage into law. We continue to emphasize, in our conversations with these officials, the concerns of thoroughbred owners and trainers.
What Else We Can Do
We encourage ITHA members to join us in advocating for the interests of Illinois thoroughbred owners and trainers by contacting their own members of Congress to express their concerns.