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Additional H-2B Visas Available for 2nd Half of Fiscal Year 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 25, 2021)— The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a joint temporary final rule that was published today in the Federal Register and offers 22,000 additional H-2B visas to employers for the second half of the federal fiscal year that ends on September 30, 2021. These visas are used by employers, such as racehorse trainers, who seek seasonal guest workers. They are capped at 66,000 annually, with an even split of 33,000 available for each half of the federal government’s fiscal year. Six thousand of these supplemental visas will be reserved for nationals of the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

“The 22,000 H-2B visas offered through this rule issued by the DHS and DOL will be helpful to employers who rely on the H-2B visa program, including trainers, but many more of these visas are ultimately required to satisfy the need,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “For that reason, the NTRA, through its involvement in the H-2B Workforce Coalition, supports additional relief from the burdensome annual H-2B visa cap through a permanent returning worker exemption.”

Employers can find eligibility and filing details here.

This past December, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 became law and included a provision that provides the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the discretionary authority to release an additional 64,176 H-2B visas when significant need is demonstrated. The NTRA supports all efforts to make additional visas available to seasonal businesses struggling with labor issues.

The H-2B visa guest worker program is a nonimmigrant visa program used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

Demand for H-2B visas often exceeds their availability and the cap level is quickly reached, leaving employers in need. For the second half of federal fiscal year 2021, DHS announced that by February 12 it had received enough H-2B worker petitions to reach the congressionally mandated cap of 33,000 visas allotted.

NTRA Statement on the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act

  • March 17, 2021

    “HISA, a well-crafted and comprehensive piece of legislation, creates the national framework that addresses our industry’s critical need for consistent, forceful anti-doping control and equine safety standards. The NTRA Board of Directors, which consists of representatives from tens of thousands of breeders, owners and trainers from more than 40 states, as well as thousands of horseplayers and virtually every major racetrack in the United States, voted to support HISA. We plan to work tirelessly on behalf of our members and a broad array of interested parties and stakeholders to support HISA’s successful launch in July 2022.”

    Alex Waldrop,

    President and Chief Executive Officer,

    National Thoroughbred Racing Association

     

    The NTRA is a broad-based coalition of American horse racing interests consisting of leading Thoroughbred racetracks, owners, breeders, trainers, horseplayers, advance deposit wagering companies, and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity of horse racing and improving economic conditions for industry participants.

     

    RESPONSE

     

    In 2020, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed, and the President signed into law, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA). Through this landmark legislation, HISA recognizes and empowers the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (Authority) to protect the safety and welfare of Thoroughbred horseracing’s most important participants—its horses—by delivering commonsense medication reforms and track safety standards.

     

    HISA has broad support from the Thoroughbred industry, including: organizations such as the Breeders’ Cup, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, The Jockey Club, The Jockeys’ Guild, American Association of Equine Practitioners and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Association; the nation’s leading racetracks, including Churchill Downs, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, The Maryland Jockey Club, Monmouth Park, The New York Racing Association and Santa Anita; leading horsemen’s organizations such as the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and the Thoroughbred Owners of California; prominent Thoroughbred owners Barbara Banke, Antony Beck, Arthur and Staci Hancock, Fred Hertrich, Barry Irwin, Stuart S. Janney III, Rosendo Parra and Vinnie Viola; leading Thoroughbred trainers Christophe Clement, Neil Drysdale, Janet Elliot, Claude “Shug” McGaughey, Bill Mott, Todd Pletcher and Nick Zito; grassroots organization Water Hay Oats Alliance, with more than 2,000 individual members; international organizations the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities and The Jockey Club of Canada; and prominent animal welfare organizations American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Wellness Action and the Humane Society of the United States.

     

    The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA), along with several of its state affiliates, seeks to upend this historic and bipartisan effort to protect Thoroughbred horses and ensure the integrity of horseracing. The HBPA has recently filed a baseless lawsuit in federal court in Texas, seeking to declare HISA unconstitutional on its face. Setting aside its fatal threshold deficiencies—including the lack of any concrete or imminent harm—the HBPA’s lawsuit is meritless. HISA is constitutionally and legally sound. On behalf of a broad spectrum of organizations underlying the sport of Thoroughbred horseracing, we offer the following responses to the various claims by HBPA.

     

    1. HBPA Claim: HISA violates the constitutional “non-delegation doctrine.”

    Reality: HISA does not violate the non-delegation doctrine because the United States Supreme Court has long recognized that Congress may rely on private entities so long as the government retains ultimate decision-making authority as to rules and enforcement. HISA recognizes and empowers the Authority to propose and enforce uniform national anti-doping and equine safety standards, but only upon review, approval and adoption by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Though this is a first for the Thoroughbred horseracing industry, HISA’s structure is not new. HISA follows the FINRA/SEC model of regulation in the securities industry, and, like that model, is constitutional because any action the Authority undertakes is subject to the FTC’s approval and oversight.

     

    2. HBPA Claim: The HISA runs afoul of the Appointments Clause.

    Reality: The Authority is a private entity, independently established under state law, and recognized by HISA. As such, it is simply not subject to constitutional restraints on appointments (or removal) of its Board members. Indeed, any such claim is at war with HBPA’s non-delegation theory premised on the fact that the Authority is a private entity. On the one hand, the HBPA claims that the Authority cannot take action because it is private entity, but then argues, on the other hand, that the Authority cannot appoint its own Board members because it is effectively a public entity. These two HBPA arguments are in conflict, but have one important thing in common: they are both wrong.

     

    3.  HBPA Claim: HISA violates due process protections.

    Reality: The HBPA’s due process theory also falls flat. Though the HBPA complains of equine industry participants regulating their competitors, a strong bipartisan majority of the House and the Senate made clear in HISA that a majority of the Authority’s Board members must be from outside the equine industry. To be sure, a minority of the Authority’s Board members will have industry experience and engagement. But it is difficult to understand how that statutory recognition of the value of informed voices constitutes a deprivation of due process. What’s more, with respect to the minority industry Board members, HISA expressly provides for equal representation among each of the six equine constituencies (trainers, owners and breeders, tracks, veterinarians, state racing commissions, and jockeys). Furthermore, the committee tasked with nominating eligible candidates for Board and standing-committee positions is made up of entirely non-industry members. HISA further imposes broad conflicts-of-interest requirements to ensure that all of its Board members (industry and non-industry alike) as well as non-industry standing committee members (not to mention their employees and family members) are required to remain free of all equine economic conflicts of interest.

     

    Beyond these robust safeguards, established precedent confirms what common sense indicates: even when a private entity is engaged in the regulatory process, agency authority and surveillance protect against promotion of self-interest. Under HISA, for example, the FTC has the authority to decline the Authority’s proposed rules and overrule any sanctions—ensuring that neither the Authority nor the individuals making up its Board can use their position for their own advantage in violation of constitutional restraints.

     

    *****

    Contrary to HBPA’s hyperbole, HISA is neither unprecedented nor unconstitutional. HISA emulates the long-established FINRA/SEC model, with even greater protections for all stakeholders. It is disappointing that the HBPA—an entity whose mission is supposedly the welfare of horses and horsemen—would seek to undo much needed reforms to protect the industry’s participants.

Omnibus Legislation Will Allow Current H-2B Visa Provisions To Continue

A series of current H-2B visa program provisions are set to continue as part of omnibus legislation passed Monday by Congress.

  • H-2B visa program policies set to continue include:
  • Authority for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Department of Labor (DOL), to increase the H-2B cap for fiscal year 2021 by up to approximately 69,000 visas if it determines that the needs of seasonal businesses cannot be met with U.S. workers;
  • Continuation of the use of private wage surveys for prevailing wage determinations;
  • A prohibition against DOL enforcing the corresponding employment and three-quarters guarantee provisions of its H-2B regulations relating to total work hours; and
  • Provisions extending the maximum employment season for up to 10 months, as opposed the nine-months in current DOL regulations.

The H-2B visa guest worker program is a nonimmigrant visa program used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, racehorse trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions. Demand for H-2B visas often exceeds their availability and the cap level is quickly reached, leaving employers without sufficient help.

The NTRA, through its involvement with the H-2B Workforce Coalition, supports efforts for comprehensive reform of the guest worker visa program.

 

Thoroughbred Racing Groups Launch National Ad Campaign

May 28, 2020 (Lexington, KY) – The Breeders’ Cup and The Jockey Club have launched a national ad campaign titled “Still. Running. Strong.” to promote Thoroughbred racing as major racetracks across the country resume live racing without spectators during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizations announced today.

The campaign, which includes broadcast, digital, and social media elements, comes at a time when other major sports are on hiatus and horse racing is receiving unprecedented levels of live television coverage on NBC Sports and FOX Sports.

In addition to Breeders’ Cup and The Jockey Club, significant financial support for the campaign was provided by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA); TVG, an affiliate of the FanDuel Group; the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association (KTA); and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA).

“As more of our major venues get back to live racing and with people at home seeking diversion and entertainment, we wanted to be proactive about promoting the sport to a broader audience,” said Drew Fleming, President and CEO of the Breeders’ Cup. “Horse racing has a unique opportunity to lead the way as we resume operations safely and, in doing so, provide fun and excitement for millions of sports fans and bettors across the country.”

The campaign highlights the bond between human and horse along with the thrill of watching and betting on horses that sets horse racing apart. Digital and social media executions promote the legal on-line wagering aspects of the sport, directing people to a new landing page on America’s Best Racing’s website, featuring fan education materials, wagering basics and links to horse racing’s advanced-deposit wagering platforms.

“With racing returning to major circuits and the addition of many hours of live programming on Fox Sports and NBC Sports there is now a unique opportunity to appeal to new fans and ask them to sample Thoroughbred racing,” said Jim Gagliano, President & COO of The Jockey Club. “Our goal is to increase awareness of racing as an option for these potential customers, engage with them, and provide the initial tools for them to learn more and break down barriers to participation. We are grateful to NTRA, TVG, KTA, and TOBA for supporting our efforts to promote racing and look forward to working with others to grow the campaign.”

“On behalf of our member tracks and horsemen’s organizations, we are happy to support this collaborative effort, especially during this unique window of opportunity,” said Alex Waldrop, NTRA President and CEO.

While most professional sports seasons have been sidelined or restricted to mitigate risks associated with human-to-human contact in the midst of the pandemic, horse racing has been able to operate safely in many jurisdictions under strict screening, sanitation and health protocols under guidance from public health officials and other experts.

The campaign launches today and will run on NBC Sports, FOX Sports and a variety of targeted digital and social channels. It was developed by Boston-based agency CTP, the Breeders’ Cup’s longtime advertising agency.

For more information visit AmericasBestRacing.net/Strong.

NTRA Safety And Integrity Alliance Releases Best Practices For Spectator-Free Racing

May 7, 2020

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Safety and Integrity Alliance today released a document outlining best practices for North American racetracks determined to prioritize the health and safety of all participants and employees, when conducting live racing in a spectator-free environment in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The comprehensive document will assist racetracks that wish to resume live racing by establishing the safest public health environment possible, while also enabling gainful employment and economic activity at a time of uncertainty for so many. These best practices are based upon the most current information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), input from racetracks across the U.S. that are already conducting live racing and/or training, and feedback from a newly established Public Health Advisory Council consisting of experts in public health, epidemiology and horseracing who have agreed to contribute their expertise to racetrack re-opening efforts.

In addition to public health protocols established by the CDC, the document includes detailed racetrack-specific operational guidelines. These include the establishment of a COVID-19 Safety Team to manage the myriad issues and situations that may arise when conducting live racing, cleaning and sanitation protocols, frontside operations involving essential employees only, racing and stable area operations that facilitate maximum physical distancing, health and safety requirements specific to jockeys, as well as other public health and safety recommendations.

Initial members of the Public Health Advisory Council include:
· Dr. Rick Greenberg, Infectious Disease Specialist, University of Kentucky
· Dr. Hiram Polk, Former Public Health Commissioner, Kentucky Dept. for Public Health
· Dr. Kelly Ryan, Family and Sports Medicine Specialist, MedStar Health
· Dr. Barry Schumer, Track Physician, Keeneland

“The current economic situation facing many in the horse racing industry make it critical that we work with relevant local authorities to help tracks across the country return to racing as soon as is safely possible,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “To this end, the NTRA has engaged a variety of stakeholders and consulted with multiple public health experts to produce comprehensive guidelines that will serve as a blueprint for tracks seeking to operate safely and responsibly in the current public health environment. We urge racetracks to tailor these protocols to fit their unique conditions by working closely with their state and local health department officials, as so much about the safest response to this pandemic is local in nature.”

Version 1.0 of the full document outlining all of the best practices can be found here: https://mk0ntrauj6jy9vera.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/NTRA_Covid_19_Plan_5.6.20-V6-FINAL.pdf

Updates to these best practices will be made on an ongoing basis as necessary.

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