Congress Approves Horse Racing Legislation Before Adjournment

Congress Approves Horse Racing Legislation Before Adjournment
Photo: Anne Eberhardt
AHC president said legislation clarifies federal laws on simulcasting and account wagering.
Before Congress adjourned Friday, legislation clarifying the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 regarding simulcast and account wagering was passed as part of a package of appropriations bills. The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act was not part of the legislation passed Friday and sent to President Clinton for his signature.

According to the American Horse Council, the legislation clarifies the federal horse racing law to permit interstate simulcast wagering, including the interstate merging of wagering pools, and permits interstate account wagering, provided the wager is legal in each state involved and meets the requirements of the state where the person making the wager resides.

The legislation, advanced by Senators Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, both Kentucky Republicans, and Rep. Hal Rogers, also a Republican from Kentucky, was sought to address concerns that arose as part of the internet gambling prohibition bill. The U.S. Department of Justice testified several times that that interstate wagering activities of the racing industry violated the federal Wire Act. The justice department opposed provisions of the internet bill that would have allowed racing to continue to offer interstate simulcasting and account wagering.

"While it is expected that this clarification of the IHA will offer the industry additional protections from the department's position, the clarification does not amend the federal Wire Act itself," AHC president Jay Hickey said. "In addition, this clarification should help the industry in any legislative efforts regarding Internet gambling in the next Congress. The change is an affirmation by Congress that what the industry has been doing under the IHA and state law is authorized. This position should give additional weight to our arguments that the Interstate Horseracing Act gives this industry special status with respect to interstate wagering."

Hickey noted that while the legislation had a broad base of support from within the industry, McConnell, Bunning, and Rogers succeeded in having it added to the appropriations package and in "fending off numerous issues and hurdles raised during the process."

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