National HBPA files suit over legality of HISA

A press release from the Liberty Justice Center:

U.S. Congress created a private organization with federal authority to make laws, issue subpoenas and collect money

LUBBOCK, Texas. (March 15, 2021)— Organizations representing Thoroughbred horse owners and trainers have filed a federal lawsuit to stop a new law in which Congress punted on its legislative duties and, instead, handed the power to regulate horse racing over to a private group. Under the law, this elite group within the industry is allowed to monopolize power and change not only the rules, but the federal laws that govern horse racing across the country.

In the Dec. 2020 COVID-19 stimulus plan, the U.S. Congress tucked in this pet project pushed by elite horseracing interest groups. With the passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA), Congress ends 125 years of state regulation and nationalizes control over horse racing by creating and ceding federal lawmaking power to a private, nongovernmental body called the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, or the “Authority.”

The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (National HBPA) and state affiliates in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia, are suing the newly created “Authority” and the Federal Trade Commissioners, who are tasked with nothing more than rubberstamping their rules. In addition, they are suing the Nominating Committee and asking the court to immediately stop them from appointing the Board members of the Authority. They are represented by attorneys at the Liberty Justice Center, a national public interest law firm that defends constitutional rights.

“All Americans should be concerned when Congress gives power to regulate an entire industry to a private group of industry insiders,” said Brian Kelsey, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “This goes way beyond setting rules for the sport of horse racing. This is not the NBA or the NFL. The ‘Authority’ has the power to make laws, issue subpoenas and effectively tax owners with little real oversight. Placing that power in a private organization is illegal and must be stopped.”

The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and its affiliates effectively held back the passage of HISA since it was first introduced in 2015. Opponents on Capitol Hill repeatedly pointed out that HISA illegally delegated power to a private entity. Despite the pushback, the measure was covertly added to the Dec. 21, 2020, COVID-19 stimulus. Now, moneyed horseracing competitors have carte blanche from the federal government to control an industry that also serves as the primary livelihood for many HBPA members and an economic driver in many states such as Kentucky, Louisiana and Pennsylvania.

“There’s a real concern among Thoroughbred horse owners that this could put us out of business,” said Bill Walmsley, president of the Arkansas HBPA. “By passing HISA, Congress picked winners and losers and put well-connected owners in charge of horse racing across the country. There was no serious debate or discussion about the costs, let alone the legality of creating a private group to control horse racing.”

The lawsuit, National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association v. Black, was filed on March 15, 2021, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Case filings are available here: National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association v. Black.

Complaint, March 15, 2021
Press Release, March 15, 2021

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.