PA Commission cannot collect HISA fees; Williams presents on Investigative Fund

Harrisburg, PA — As was the case in April 2022, the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission at their Dec. 20 meeting adopted an order stating it does not have the authority under the Racing Reform Act to remit and collect fees to pay for the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s Racetrack Safety Program in 2023.

When a racing regulatory agency declines participation in facilitating HISA assessments, the burden falls on each state’s racing associations. In 2022, many have partnered with horsemen’s groups to pay their share as mandated by a HISA formula.

Tom Chuckas, director of the PHRC Thoroughbred Bureau, told commissioners that Pennsylvania’s three Thoroughbred tracks — Parx Racing, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, and Presque Isle Downs & Casino — account for about $6.6 million of the $72 million total HISA budget for 2023. About $58 million would go toward the HISA Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program and $14 million for the Racetrack Safety Program.

The AMDC Program, which was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2023, was sidetracked this month when the Federal Trade Commission rejected the rules because of recent court rulings and ongoing legal challenges in federal courts. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the HISA law unconstitutional, and depending on an appeal or other legal maneuver, the order will take effect Jan. 10, 2023. HISA indicated it would suspend collection of assessments for the AMDC program given the recent developments.

Chuckas said it’s unclear how much of the $6.6 million assessed to Pennsylvania is for the Racetrack Safety Program, which began in July and remains in effect. He said it was important, however, to take action and advise the industry and its stakeholders of the commission’s intentions regardless of the monetary amount.

Standardbred racing does not fall under the auspices of HISA.

In other business at the PHRC meeting, United States Trotting Association president Russell Williams made a presentation on the Standardbred Racing Investigative Fund, a 501(c)(3) that operates independently of the USTA to insulate investigative activities. He discussed the “29 Preservation Project,” which documents activities in the investigation into and prosecution of individuals in the Thoroughbred and Standardbred industries over the past several years.

SRIF has been building a database containing all information relevant to the cases; the idea is to provide access to racing regulatory agencies to augment their existing integrity programs. Williams said he believes the information can be useful for follow-up or future investigations.

“The information in the files has been digitally archived,” Williams said. “I hope we are providing a valuable service to regulators. It made sense to pull all of this information together and have the correct information in one place.”

Regarding the Pennsylvania racing integrity program, Chuckas said that year-to-date through Dec. 15, the PHRC has taken 1,040 out-of-competition tests — 501 in Standardbred racing and 539 in Thoroughbred racing. Year-to-date from March, the PHRC integrity hotline has taken 101 calls, 29 for Standardbred racing and 72 for Thoroughbred racing. Ninety-five of the “cases” have been closed, with six outstanding.

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