After almost a decade of efforts to legislatively reform the U.S. horse racing industry at the federal level, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) has claimed victory. The passage of the bill marks a historic moment for U.S. racing, which will protect racehorses from doping abuse and improve racetrack safety standards across the nation.
The bicameral and bipartisan legislation, H.R.1754 and S.4547, was supported by almost 300 cosponsors in the House and Senate. Leading the bill in the House of Representatives were Congressmen Andy Barr (R-KY) and Paul Tonko (D-NY). Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were the lead sponsors in the U.S. Senate.
The House approved H.R.1754 by voice vote in September 2020. It was then passed to the Senate where it was approved to be included in the massive final FY21 spending package. The bill was officially signed into federal law by the President on Sunday evening, December 27th.
By law, the latest HISA can go into effect is July 1, 2022. The first step is the finalization of the "Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority", comprised of nine board positions. Five of the members will be independent seats and four seats will represent the racing industry. Two standing committees will also be established; an anti-doping and medication control committee and a racetrack safety committee. The chair of the anti-doping and medication control committee will be an independent member and the chair of the safety committee will be an industry member.
The Authority is tasked with proposing rules, which then needs to be approved by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC will review programs developed by the Authority, and once ratified, they will go into effect.
With the FTC acting as the umbrella agency for HISA, all proposed rules will require a period for public comment. This opportunity is important, especially as the rules may include the restriction of the use of the riding crop, which would fall within the in-race and workout safety category. As with doping, horse whipping regulations currently vary across state lines.
The passage of HISA truly marks a new era for U.S. racing, so please stay tuned for further alerts as proposed rules may be offered as early as the first quarter of 2021.