USTA commits $500,000 to legal fight against HISA

Columbus, OH — By a vote of 12-2, the United States Trotting Association (USTA) Executive Committee on Tuesday (Sept. 20) approved the allocation of $500,000 for legal fees in the Association’s continuing court fight challenging the constitutionality of the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act (HISA).

The action was filed last year by several organizations and entities, including the states of Oklahoma, West Virginia and Louisiana; Hanover Shoe Farms; the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association, and the Oklahoma racetracks Remington Park, Fair Meadows and Will Rogers Downs.

The lawsuit’s first claim is that HISA is unconstitutional because it grants governmental power to a private entity, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, but fails to require the same constitutionally mandated accountability required of other entities wielding governmental power. The second claim is that the 10th Amendment of the Constitution forbids Congress to set up federal regulatory programs and try to make the states pay for them.

A federal district court judge in Kentucky dismissed both claims in June, and the case is now on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The USTA is being represented in the suit by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, a multinational law firm with one of the foremost appellate practices in Washington, D.C. In 2018, Gibson Dunn was victorious before the U.S. Supreme Court in Murphy v. N.C.A.A., the landmark case that struck down a 1992 federal law that prohibited most states from offering sports betting.

Separate from the USTA suit, three other federal cases claiming that HISA is unconstitutional have been filed by a number of states as well as Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse tracks and horsemen’s organizations.

“All the racing breeds oppose HISA by an overwhelming majority,” said USTA president Russell Williams, who abstained from the Executive Committee vote. “We do not oppose better regulation of racing to safeguard the welfare of our horses and the integrity of our industry. We only oppose unlawful attempts by a small but powerful elite to replace the state racing commissions with a private club.”

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