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$100,000 grant from NTRA Charities to establish new UK Equine Surfaces and Safety Laboratory

By Holly Wiemers

LEXINGTON, Ky., (April 17, 2019) – A gift of $100,000 announced today by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Charities will enable the University of Kentucky to further support equine surfaces and safety research under the direction of Mick Peterson, director of UK Ag Equine Programs.

Funds will be used to renovate existing space within the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment to create the NTRA Charities Equine Surfaces and Safety Laboratory. The investment will allow UK to make a meaningful impact on the sport of horse racing through surface and safety research conducted by Peterson, a nationally known expert in surface safety and faculty member in the UK Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering.

“NTRA Charities is excited to support UK’s new Equine Surfaces and Safety Research Laboratory, which through its important work will absolutely lead to a safer racing environment for our human and equine athletes,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “This presents a unique opportunity to achieve significant advancements in the science of creating and maintaining safer racetrack surfaces. This lab will also help us train the next generation of track maintenance personnel to analyze the wealth of data that will soon be available to keep racing surfaces as safe as possible.”

In 2016, UK acted upon the recognized need to expand its research capabilities in the area of safety and recruited Peterson as a faculty member and director of UK Ag Equine Programs. Peterson joined the team, relocating the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory (RSTL) to Kentucky, and he continues to improve the safety of horse and rider in horse racing and sport horse endeavors.

“NTRA has reviewed variations on this proposal for nearly two years and we are very pleased to see it go forward. The job does not end here. We anticipate continued calls on the industry to fund specific surfaces research projects undertaken in this new laboratory,” said Steve Koch, executive director, NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance.

“The UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is committed to our signature equine industry in all ways. In particular, we are dedicated to all aspects of safety in our sport,” said Dean Nancy Cox. “This gift allows us to do important research to assist Thoroughbred racing and to create a pipeline of experts to serve racetrack safety.”

Under the direction of Peterson, RSTL has been particularly effective at reinforcing the welfare and safety commitment through its central testing laboratory for dirt, turf and synthetic racing surface materials. To date, testing has included more than 70 different racing and training tracks around the world. Equipment development from the lab includes riding crop design assessment, testing maintenance equipment and performance tests of starting gate and rail padding. The RSTL materials laboratory inspired efforts by the Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) that have now expanded activities to arena surfaces testing, including large scale sample analysis that is available only in Sweden.

“This laboratory will allow us to do racetrack surfaces testing on a larger scale to permit us to replicate surface properties using maintenance equipment on the surfaces, which have been observed on racetracks but are not well understood. Understanding racetrack maintenance is key to providing a consistent racing surface regardless of the weather,” Peterson said.

The laboratory will work to solve today’s problems associated with surface and safety research. Projects which are currently funded but have previously been space constrained include:

  • The development of real-time moisture sensors for racing surfaces
  • Shoeing effects on swing phase joint loading
  • Real-time sensing of gait parameters
  • Subsurface design of racetracks
  • The effect of harrowing on the formation of the racetrack hardpan
  • New tools for the measurement of cushion depth on dirt racetracks and moisture and penetration resistance on turf tracks

The laboratory has the potential to offer substantial new areas for industry development, including:

  • The effect of a harrowed racing surface on optimal helmet design
  • The potential for new horseshoe designs to reduce loading rate for arteriosclerosis risk reduction
  • The development of new sensors for fan engagement and handicapping data using ‘internet of things’ technologies

Additionally, the expanded laboratory would provide space for undergraduate and graduate students to learn from and participate in innovative research and for important entities within the industry, such as track superintendents, to advance their knowledge and skills in a hands‐on setting.

Renovation is expected to begin by summer with space beginning to be used for research within a few months.

Writer: Holly Wiemers, 859-257-2226

UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment through its land-grant mission, reaches across the commonwealth with teaching, research and extension to enhance the lives of Kentuckians.

About NTRA Charities

Formed in 1999, NTRA Charities is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) public charity whose mission is to promote and support charities in or related to the Thoroughbred industry. Contributions to NTRA Charities are tax deductible.

About the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance

The NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance establishes and implements standards promoting safety and integrity in horseracing. Corporate partners of the Alliance include Insurance Office of America and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Information on the Alliance, including the Alliance Code of Standards, can be found at NTRAalliance.com.

About the NTRA

The NTRA, based in Lexington, Ky., is a broad-based coalition of more than 100 horse racing interests and thousands of individual stakeholders consisting of horseplayers, racetrack operators, owners, breeders, trainers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity, welfare and integrity of Thoroughbred racing through consensus-based leadership, legislative advocacy, safety and integrity initiatives, fan engagement and corporate partner development. The NTRA owns and manages the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance; NTRA.com; the Eclipse Awards; the National Horseplayers Championship; NTRA Advantage, a corporate partner sales and sponsorship program; and Horse PAC®, a federal political action committee. NTRA press releases appear on NTRA.com, Twitter (@ntra) and Facebook (facebook.com/1NTRA).

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Dept. of Homeland Security Announces Plans to Allocate 30,000 Additional H-2B Visas in Current Fiscal Year

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier this week communicated to Congressional offices that it would allocate 30,000 additional H-2B visas for the current fiscal year that concludes on September 30, 2019. This nonimmigrant visa program is 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.

“We applaud Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen for her decision to allocate an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2019,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “This will provide relief to horse trainers desperate to hire foreign workers for backstretch positions that U.S. citizens are not filling. While the number is probably not sufficient to meet the demand, it is decidedly better than the 15,000 additional H-2B visas issued in the last two fiscal years.”

Below is the complete statement from DHS:

________________________________________________________________________________

The H-2B nonimmigrant visa program allows U.S. employers who meet specific statutory and regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs.  There is a statutory cap on the total number of foreign nationals who may be issued an H-2B visa or otherwise granted H-2B status during a fiscal year. Under section 214(g)(1)(B) and 214(g)(10) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended (INA), Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with a maximum of 33,000 available during the first half of any given fiscal year and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year.

Section 105 of Div. H of Public Law 116-6, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, was signed into law by the President on February 15, 2019. This fiscal year, for the third year in a row, Congress delegated to the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to allocate visas above the 66,000 cap if the Secretary determines, after consultation with the Secretary of Labor, that the needs of American businesses could not be satisfied with U.S workers who are willing, qualified, and able to perform temporary nonagricultural labor.

After consultation with Secretary Acosta and carefully weighing several factors, including whether U.S. workers may be harmed, and impact statements from your constituents, Secretary Nielsen has decided to allocate an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2019. Further, this supplemental visa allocation will be available only to applicants who have held H-2B status in at least one of the past three fiscal years (2016, 2017 and 2018). Details on eligibility and filing requirements will be available in the temporary final rule and on uscis.gov when the final temporary rule is posted for public inspection.

As Secretary Nielsen has stated, Congress is in the best position to know the “right” number of H-2B visas that American businesses should be allocated without harming American workers. DHS is committed to ensuring that our immigration system is implemented lawfully and that American workers are protected. We look forward to working with Congress so it can set an appropriate numerical limitation moving forward.

Thank you.

Office of Legislative Affairs

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

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DISCUSSION OF REGULATION AND TESTING ON DAY 2 OF 2019 REGULATORY VETERINARIAN CONTINUING EDUCATION CONFERENCE

An emphasis on regulating medication and developing enforcement strategies marked the second and final day of the Regulatory Veterinarian Continuing Education conference (#RegVetCE19) presented by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) and National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Safety & Integrity Alliance at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla., March 4-5.

The morning was highlighted by an informative panel on U.S. and international out-of-competition testing strategies. Dr. Rick Arthur of the California Horse Racing Board, Dr. Tessa Muir of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and Dr. Izzy Trejo of the New Mexico Racing Commission covered subjects such as hair testing and the scope of substances that should be included when performing out-of-competition testing.

Testing matters were further discussed in a talk by UC Davis’s Dr. Ashley Hill on scientific threshold level development and the 95/95 threshold interval, and on a later panel that focused on laboratory issues including sample turnaround logistics and unknown substances. The panel was led by Dr. Lynn Hovda of the Minnesota Horse Racing Commission and featured representatives of RMTC-Accredited testing laboratories, Dr. Anthony Fontana of Truesdail Laboratories and Petra Hartmann of Industrial Laboratories.

Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, presented on the purpose and philosophy behind therapeutic medication regulations, and regulating substances present in the racehorse’s environment.

Afternoon sessions included a talk led by Zoetis’s Dr. Kenton Morgan on adulterated substances, compounded and illegal new medications, misbranding and mislabeling.

The event concluded with a detailed comparison of U.S. and international medication regulations. This discussion featured BHA’s Dr. Muir, RMTC Executive Director and COO Dr. Dionne Benson, and RMTC Chair and NTRA President Alex Waldrop.

“[RegVetCE] was a great reminder that we are here for the welfare of the horse, first and foremost,” stated Meredith A. Steudle, DVM of the New Jersey Racing Commission. “The networking that is created during conferences like this helps us develop strategies to do our job better.”

The sold-out event, which attracted more than 60 regulatory and official racetrack veterinarians from 20 states and six countries (and covering almost 50 North American racetracks), was organized by RMTC’s Dr. Benson and Steve Koch, executive director of the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance.

“The 2019 Regulatory Veterinarian CE conference marked another successful event, which is evidenced by the group of attendees and significant industry support,” said Dr. Robert O’Neil, director of equine health and safety for The Stronach Group. “Our sport’s equine athletes will certainly benefit from the support that continuing education provides veterinarians in the field – from developing their networks and skill sets to expanding access to critical resources. This annual gathering has become the gold standard in training regulatory veterinarians.”

Koch added, “Industry support is a critical component of the RegVetCE’s continued success. Gulfstream Park has generously supported RegVetCE, both financially and as a first-class event host, and we are grateful to The Stronach Group for their leadership on this project.” “The event’s financial supporters are crucial to ensuring that we continue to provide a robust program.”

Koch continued, “We are also grateful to the racing commissions and racetrack operators for enabling the travel and participation of their regulatory veterinarians, and to our U.S. and international panelists, who provided highly thoughtful, scientific content.”

The Regulatory/Official Veterinarian CE is made possible through the generous support of The Stronach Group, Keeneland Association, RMTC, NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, New York Racing Association, ALS-Truesdail, Industrial Laboratories, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Quarter Horse Association, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, The Jockey Club, Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie, New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Oak Tree Racing Association, Ohio HBPA, Remington Park Racing and Casino, and Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.

For an overview of all topics covered over the two-day conference, visit ntra.com/reg-vet-ce/.

The RMTC consists of 23 racing industry stakeholders and organizations that represent Thoroughbred, Standardbred, American Quarter Horse and Arabian racing. The organization works to develop and promote uniform rules, policies and testing standards at the national level; coordinate research and educational programs that seek to ensure the integrity of racing and the health and welfare of racehorses and participants; and protect the interests of the racing public.

The NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance is a standing organization establishing standards and practices to promote safety and integrity in horseracing and to secure their implementation. Corporate partners of the Alliance include Insurance Office of America and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Information on the Alliance, including the Alliance Code of Standards, can be found at NTRAalliance.com.

For additional information, visit the RMTC website at rmtcnet.com or contact Hallie Lewis, RMTC communications and development consultant, at (859) 759-4081.

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Legislation Would Restore Three-Year Depreciation

Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, and ranking member Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, introduced bipartisan tax and disaster relief legislation Feb. 28 that includes three-year depreciation for racehorses.

Under the proposed package, three-year racehorse depreciation would be retroactive for 2018, continue through 2019 and grant taxpayers the option to depreciate all racehorses over a three-year period.

Three-year racehorse depreciation was most recently available to the industry in 2017 but Congress did not renew it for 2018 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed in December 2017. The TCJA did include 100% bonus depreciation and a $1 million Sec. 179 expense allowance for qualified depreciable property, two important investment incentives that lessened the need for three-year depreciation in many cases.

However, three-year depreciation continues to be a beneficial option for many racehorse owners, especially racing partnerships with multiple passive owners, as it better aligns deductions with corresponding income opportunities on an annual basis.

The NTRA federal legislative team will pursue passage of three-year depreciation as part of this tax extenders legislation as we have done since its original inclusion in the 2008 Farm bill.

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Bill Aims to End Export of Horses for Slaughter

Similar legislation was filed in 2017 but stalled in committee.

 

Bipartisan legislation filed in the United States House of Representatives Jan. 30 aims to halt the shipping of horses to Canada or Mexico for slaughter.

Representatives Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, and Vern Buchanan, a Florida Republican, reintroduced Wednesday the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, which would prohibit horse-slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. and end the export of horses across the border for this purpose.

Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action, said the act is a permanent solution as opposed to the current de facto ban in place since 2006, which is accomplished by not funding regulatory appropriations to allow such plants to operate. Irby noted the bill includes 219 co-sponsors in the 115th Congress, more than half the House.

Similar legislation, the Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2017, stalled in committee despite having more than 200 co-sponsors.

“Horses have a special place in our nation’s history, and these majestic creatures were not raised as food for humans,” Schakowsky said. “The SAFE Act would prohibit any horse slaughter plant from opening and also end the sale or transport of horses and horse parts in the U.S. and abroad for the purpose of human consumption. I am proud to reintroduce this bill and work with Congressman Buchanan to put an end to this practice.”

“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is a barbaric practice that has no place in America,” Buchanan said. “I will continue to lead the effort with Congresswoman Schakowsky to ban domestic horse slaughter and end the export of horses abroad for slaughter.”

National Thoroughbred Racing Association president and CEO Alex Waldrop said Wednesday he has not read through the entire bill yet, but one potential concern would be that the legislation could hinder transport of horses to Mexico or Canada for legitimate reasons, like racing or breeding.

U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, intend to introduce a similar bill in the Senate soon.

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Waldrop: Online Betting On Horse Racing Still Legal Despite Justice Department Reversal On Wire Act

by  

Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association

Legal online wagering on horse racing will not be directly affected by a new U.S. government Department of Justice opinion on the Wire Act but could have an indirect impact on the willingness of banks and credit card companies to allow horseplayers to fund their advance deposit wagering accounts.

The opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, first reported by OnlinePokerReport.com, reversed a 2011 position taken during the Obama administration stating the Wire Act – a 1961 law prohibiting transmission of betting or betting information across state lines – only applied to sports betting. The reversal by the Trump administration may create an atmosphere of uncertainty among businesses operating online casinos, interstate lotteries and daily fantasy sports contests, along with banks and credit card companies.

The Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, amended in 2000 to include telephone and other electronic forms of wagering in states where that type of betting is legal, provides an explicit exemption for horse racing to conduct interstate wagering.

Despite that exemption, many banks and credit card companies were slow to permit the use of credit cards to fund advance deposit wagering accounts. Breakthroughs were made in recent years, however, and Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, wants to make sure this new Justice Department opinion does not reverse the trend.

“Still reviewing this long and complicated opinion but it appears to return us to 2011 when casinos and lotteries were fearful of operating online but the horse industry online presence through ADWs was already well established,” Waldrop told the Paulick Report via email. “So online wagering on horse racing that is conducted in compliance with the IHA is still legal.  We will be working with allies on the (Capitol) Hill to assure banks and credit card processors that it is still legal to allow their credit cards to be used to fund ADW wagering accounts. We also expect the next version of the Schumer/Hatch sports betting bill to have extensive language sorting out the application of the Wire Act to all sorts of online betting transactions.”

The order by the Justice Department is dated Nov. 2, days before the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The move was applauded by the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, a group widely believed to be funded by Sands casino operator and GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, an opponent of online gaming.

Read more at OnlinePokerReport.com

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Modernized IRS Rules Keep Millions in Bettors’ Hands

NTRA looks back at first year since update on tax rules on withholding and reporting.

 

In the first year of operations under newly modernized U.S. Treasury and Intenal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations, there was a $307 million reduction in the amount  of winning pari-mutuel wagers reported to the IRS using form W-2G, according to  statistics released today by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA).

This reduction in the amount of winning wagers reported was the result of a dramatic 89% decline in the number of winning tickets flagged for IRS reporting. The declines also led to a $35 million reduction in the amount withheld from bettors’ winnings. The new regulations, which took effect Sept. 28, 2017, recast the Treasury’s definition of the “amount of the wager” to include the entire amount wagered into a specific pari-mutuel pool by an individual rather than the prior IRS standard of using only the base amount of the winning wager.

Based on data provided by CHRIMS, which conducts settlements and other services for many of the nation’s pari-mutuel operators, individual racetracks, and the two largest U.S. totalizator companies–AmTote and United Tote–the NTRA estimates the following nationwide impacts over the first 12 months of operation under the new regulations (10/1/2017 – 9/30/2018 vs. 10/1/2016 – 9/30/2017):

•         The gross amount of winning wagers reported to the IRS on Form W-2G declined $307,700,000 (82%), from approximately $374,500,000 to about $66,800,000;
•         Federal taxes withheld from winning wagers and sent to the IRS declined $35,400,000 (82%), from $43,200,000 to $7,800,000; and
•         The actual number of IRS tickets flagged for W-2G reporting by the IRS declined nearly 89%, from approximately 235,100 tickets to only about 26,350 winning tickets.
From a percentage standpoint, the impacts were equally positive for horseplayers, pari-mutuel operators and horsemen across the country–regardless of the size of the racetrack market. The new regulations also provided positive impacts to advance deposit wagering (ADW) operators and their customers.

“The drastic reduction in the number of winning tickets requiring reporting and withholding is consequential in several ways,” said NTRA President and Chief Executive Officer, Alex Waldrop. “Under the old regulations, it was not uncommon for horseplayers to feel the thrill of ‘winning’ only to have their proceeds reported and/or withheld by the IRS. The old regulations were both unfair and a burden to all involved. A significant overreach by the IRS has been corrected thanks to fair-minded officials at the U.S. Treasury.”

There are numerous specific examples of events where the industry benefited from the new regulations.
On-track at the host venues of the Triple Crown races–Derby Day, Preakness Day and Belmont Stakes Day–the combined number of winning tickets required by the IRS to be reported on Form W-2G fell 96%, with the gross amount of winning wagers required to be reported falling by 87% and the amount of money withheld from pari-mutuel winnings falling 71%. It is likely that similar results were realized nationwide.

On-track impacts were most pronounced at Pimlico on Preakness Day, where the number of tickets requiring reporting fell 99% and the number of tickets requiring Federal withholding fell 100% because there were no winning tickets at Pimlico on Preakness Day that triggered Federal withholding.

On-track at the 40-day 2018 Saratoga Meeting, the number of winning tickets flagged for processing by the IRS fell 96%, the gross amount of winnings required to be reported fell 94% and the amount of money withheld from winning bettors fell 91%.

“The new regulations have been enormously beneficial to every sector of our business,” Waldrop continued. “They would never have transpired without the bipartisan support we received on Capitol Hill and the unwavering support of every segment of the horse racing industry, including thousands of customers who answered our call to action.  Best of all, we will continue to realize the positive impacts from these regulations for many years to come.”

For more than a decade, the NTRA and others promoted legislation to modernize pari-mutuel withholding and reporting. The industry argued that as pari-mutuel wagering increasingly shifts toward exotic bet types like Exactas, Trifectas and Pick 4s, more winning wagers are being reported and more winnings withheld, creating an unfair burden on bettors, pari-mutuel operators and state and federal governments.

Then in 2014, the NTRA developed a new strategy that relied on regulatory, not statutory relief from outdated regulations. Following the new strategy, the NTRA was able to convince the Treasury Department and the IRS to expand the definition of the phrase “amount of the wager” to include the total amount bet on a single ticket (or through an ADW) by an individual into a specific pari-mutuel pool. This one simple change in the Treasury regulations that took effect on September 28, 2017 has led to the significant benefits reported today.

Through September of this year, U.S. wagering has increased 3.95% ($336,724,709) overall while average wagering per race day has increased 7.67% ($180,231), according to statistics provided by Equibase.

 

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NTRA Provides Updates on Industry Issues

An NTRA legislative briefing held Thursday, Aug. 10 at Fasig-Tipton Sales Paddocks provided updates on a diverse range of topics impacting Thoroughbred breeding, racing, and handicapping.

NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop and Greg Means, principal and CFO at The Alpine Group, which represents the NTRA and the industry’s lobbying interests in Washington, D.C., provided updates on a range of topics, including:

Federal Withholding & Reporting – Long-sought Treasury and IRS regulations that modernize federal withholding and reporting of pari-mutuel winnings have resulted in a 90-95% reduction in the filing of IRS Form W-2Gs. The changes have led to a drastic reduction in the reporting and withholding of winning wagers, which in turn has helped fuel handle increases. During the first six months of 2018, overall handle increased 5.5%. Average handle per race day in 2018 has increased 8.7% through June (vs. a 3.7% gain in all of 2017). Overall, U.S. pari-mutuel handle in 2018 is on course to exceed $11 billion for the first time since 2010.

Tax Reform – The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that became law in December 2017 contains a number of incentives that promote investment in Thoroughbred breeding and racing. Among the many positive changes included in the bill were:

•    An increase in immediate expensing to 100% and expansion of the definition of “new property.” Buyers would be able to write off 100% of all horses purchased, including breeding stock, as long as the asset purchased has not been previously owned by the purchaser.

•    An increase in the Section 179 limit to $1 million from $500,000, and an increase in the cost of property subject to the phase-out to $2.5 million from $2 million, which would be beneficial to industry participants that generate net taxable income.

•    Inclusion of a new 20% deduction for certain pass-through business income. Owners of businesses such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, trusts and S corporations now may be able to deduct 20% of their qualified business income when filing their tax returns. Qualified business income includes domestic income from a trade or business but does not include employee income, capital gains, interest and dividend income. Additionally, business owners can combine their businesses into a single unit to claim the benefit, thereby making the process of filing more efficient and less costly.

Waldrop stressed the importance of each taxpayer consulting with his or her tax advisors to assess how the bill will specifically affect their operations.

Sports Betting – The Monmouth Park/New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Supreme Court victory put horseracing at the epicenter of sports betting. It also extends the industry’s reach from online wagering under the Interstate Horseracing Act–space it has occupied since 2000–into a vast new area of the American gaming market, where sports betting is estimated to be a $400 billion business. While the primary activity since the Supreme Court decision has been at the state level, Means noted that the major sports leagues, in particular, are already advocating on Capitol Hill for a uniform federal bill aimed at consumer protections, among other issues. Means projected that it is unlikely that Congress will consider any legislation on this topic this year. However, the issue will likely arise in more force in 2019. Both Means and Waldrop noted that Thoroughbred racing must be aggressive in defending its interests relating to Sports Betting and be ready to take advantage of new opportunities on Capitol Hill should they arise.

Credit Card Transactions Involving Advance Deposit Wagering (And, Potentially, Sports Betting) – While many banks permit Visa and MasterCard credit cards to be used in funding an Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) account, up until this year four of the largest banks that are significant card issuers have refused to allow this legal use. In January, JP Morgan Chase, the nation’s largest issuer of credit cards, began allowing this activity and the NTRA continues to work with the three other large banks to secure a reversal of their exclusions.

The same challenges to ADW wagering may affect those who seek to fund sports betting accounts via credit card, meaning that those in our industry who offer ADW and sports betting will have multiple banking issues.
On the same front, ADW wagering is being blocked by search engines such as Google that do not readily turn up direct links to horseracing betting sites, but simply link to informational stories about wagering or horse races. The advent of sports betting will change this landscape rapidly, again posing potential threats–and opportunities–for the Thoroughbred industry.

Immigration – There is strong disagreement on Capitol Hill over Immigration policy. Efforts earlier this summer to pass immigration bills failed and it is unlikely that Congress will take any major action on Immigration prior to the November elections. Thoroughbred trainers continue to face major labor shortages due to a lack of H-2B visas available to backstretch employees. While comprehensive immigration reform will be necessary if Thoroughbred racing is to receive the relief it needs from the current guest worker program, Waldrop and Means acknowledged that such reform is not likely to occur in the near term due to the current political environment in Washington.

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Appropriations Bill Could Provide H-2B Visa Relief

Bill could double number of visas available.

 

Congress on the morning of March 23 passed a Fiscal 2018 omnibus appropriations bill, which includes language that could almost double the number of H-2B visas available, potentially improving a dire situation for Thoroughbred trainers who depend on these visas for the industry’s sizable foreign temporary workforce.

The bill provides the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to raise the cap on H-2B visas if the Secretary, in consultation with the Department of Labor, determines there is an economic need.

If the omnibus spending bill is signed into law by President Trump, the total number of H-2B workers that may enter the U.S. during fiscal 2018, which ends on Sept. 30, 2018, will then be capped at 129,547. If fully implemented, this new cap would be equal to the number of new and returning H-2B workers admitted to the U.S. in fiscal 2007, which is the fiscal year when the highest number of H-2B foreign temporary workers participated in the H-2B program.

“Congress provided the Secretary of Homeland Security with the same discretionary power to increase H-2B limits as part of the 2017 omnibus spending bill passed in May of last year,” said National Thoroughbred Racing Association President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “Unfortunately, the Secretary did not make the necessary finding of economic need until July of last summer when it was too late for most employers to take advantage of the increased number of H-2B visas before the end of the fiscal year.”

The NTRA, through its membership in the H-2B Workforce Coalition, will urge the Administration to swiftly implement this H-2B cap relief and will continue to encourage Congress to pass permanent H-2B cap relief.

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THREE-YEAR RACEHORSE DEPRECIATION RETURNS RETROACTIVELY FOR FISCAL YEAR 2017

Friday, February 9, 2018 President Trump  signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act, a bill that among other measures extends retroactively for fiscal year 2017 uniform three-year racehorse depreciation, an important tax provision supported by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) that expired in 2016 alongside certain other expired tax provisions.  The bill also funds the federal government until March 23.

Three-year depreciation is an investment incentive for racehorse owners that had been in place for several years before expiring at the end of 2016.

“We wish to thank Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his continued support for our industry,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “We’ve worked with the Leader for over a decade on our industry’s unique issues, and we appreciate his continued efforts.”

Prior to the 2008 Farm Bill, which became effective January 1, 2009, racehorses 24 months of age and younger when purchased and placed in service, were depreciated on a seven-year schedule that did not accurately reflect the length of a typical racehorse’s career; only racehorses over 24 months old were depreciated using a three-year schedule.

The NTRA will continue to advocate for tax policies that accurately reflect our unique industry.

About the NTRA

The NTRA, based in Lexington, Ky., is a broad-based coalition of more than 100 horse racing interests and thousands of individual stakeholders consisting of horseplayers, racetrack operators, owners, breeders, trainers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity, welfare and integrity of Thoroughbred racing through consensus-based leadership, legislative advocacy, safety and integrity initiatives, fan engagement and corporate partner development. The NTRA owns and manages the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, NTRA.com, the Eclipse Awards, the National Handicapping Championship, NTRA Advantage, a corporate partner sales and sponsorship program, and Horse PAC, a federal political action committee. NTRA press releases appear on NTRA.com, Twitter (@ntra) and Facebook (facebook.com/1NTRA).

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