The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Friday approved the rules and accreditation standards that comprise the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s (HISA) Racetrack Safety Program, marking a major milestone in HISA’s mission to protect the wellbeing of equine and human athletes along with the integrity of the sport. With the FTC’s approval, HISA will now move forward with robust industry education efforts ahead of the program’s July 1, 2022, implementation date.
“The Racetrack Safety Program’s multi-faceted approach will enable veterinarians, horsemen and all racing participants to optimize the safety of every horse before they set foot on the track while also increasing our understanding of the conditions that contribute to equine injuries,” said HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus. “The importance of this program cannot be overstated as we build on advances the industry has already made by implementing national, uniform rules and regulations, increasing accountability, and using data- and research-driven solutions to enhance the safety of our horses and jockeys. We sincerely believe that this data will generate the information we need to help prolong equine and jockey careers.”
In drafting the rules, the Racetrack Safety Committee examined existing rules and best practices in addition to seeking input from state racing commissions, racing participants and other experts and industry organizations in a comprehensive stakeholder engagement process. The interested public had further opportunities to provide input on the draft rules via the HISA website and during the FTC’s public comment period. Highlights of the Racetrack Safety Program include:
- Expanded veterinary oversight;
- Surface maintenance and measurement standards;
- Enhanced reporting requirements;
- Collection and analysis of medication, treatment, injury, and fatality data;
- A voided claim rule;
- The transfer of claimed horses’ medical information; and
- Jockey concussion and medical care reporting.
Starting on July 1, all tracks that are accredited with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) will receive interim accreditation, while tracks that are not accredited with the NTRA will be granted a one-year provisional accreditation and be given a reasonable period to achieve compliance as long as they are demonstrating continuous progress. HISA intends to work with individual racetracks and state racing jurisdictions, recognizing that compliance with new legal requirements on day one is not realistic.
“We are gratified that after a rigorous process, the FTC has overwhelmingly approved the Racetrack Safety regulations and national accreditation standards. The next step in the process will be for HISA to share cost assessments with each of the states by April 1, 2022,” explained Dr. Susan Stover, Chair of the Racetrack Safety Committee. “These new rules will decrease fatalities by detecting horses with mild pre-existing conditions through expanded veterinary oversight and the review of medication and treatment records and training histories. They will also provide a window into understanding and preventing the development of mild injuries in the first place via uniform surface maintenance standards and ongoing data analysis.”
The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which is challenging the federal legislation that created HISA, issued the following statement on Saturday:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Thursday, March 3, 2022, issued an order approving without exception all the racetrack safety regulations propounded by the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Authority (HISA). The rubber-stamp order accepted without issue all of the proposed rules as well as acceptance of the Authority’s responses to the comments submitted by industry participants.
The order recognized that many of the comments by industry stakeholders were useful and constructive to improve the rules. Yet, the FTC refused to disapprove any rule, nor did it direct such constructive changes be incorporated prior to approval. Instead, the FTC took the position that it would welcome future proposed rule modifications that the Authority decides to submit in response to comments received.
This FTC order makes crystal clear that this private entity of self-appointed rule-makers (i.e., The Authority) has unfettered power without governmental oversight to control the horseracing industry.
The illusion of governmental supervisory control was clearly dispelled with the FTC approving all of the Authority’s proposals without exception. It also demonstrated that this private entity will make the rules without regard to the constructive comments of industry stakeholders.
The FTC’s order affirms the significant concerns expressed in pending litigation that such a delegation of control is unconstitutional and that the input of those closest to the horseracing industry is no longer relevant.