New Standards May Be Imposed on NY Stewards

New York racing regulators raised the prospects of imposing new transparency standards on stewards, including possibly publicly releasing videos that are used by officials in decisions affecting the outcome of a race.

The concerns came after last month's controversy at Gulfstream Park involving a call by stewards on the last race of a day that was a part of the Rainbow 6 jackpot bet. A bettor lost the chance for $1.66 million after stewards disqualified a horse in that final race.

No final rule was adopted, but the discussion by the Gaming Commission's board sent a clear signal of interest in pursuing changes that will affect stewards and judges, who are employees of the state.

Gaming Commission board member John Crotty said it is time to bring "some sunshine" to the work of stewards when they perform reviews of races. Some ideas, he said, might be making public the votes of the stewards, who voted how, and who may have communicated with stewards prior to making a ruling on a disqualification or on other decisions. He also floated the idea of making public any videos that the stewards use in making their rulings.

"I think I'd be interested if we started taking a look at how our stewards operate," Crotty said. The commission's staff was instructed to come up with a review of the matter and possible recommendations for future consideration.

The March 12 meeting was conducted via teleconference. Mark Gearan, the new Gaming Commission chairman who is also president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, conducted the meeting at his campus office in the Finger Lakes region, and the rest of the board participated from a Manhattan office building.

At a time when the state is about to embark on its largest-ever expansion of commercial casino gambling, Gearan also indicated his interest in pursuing new avenues to deal with problem gambling in the state. Gearan, during his confirmation hearings before state senators last week in Albany, was questioned often by lawmakers about his thoughts on dealing with worsening gambling addictions as the state expands casino developments.

"I think it's relevant to the work of our commission," Gearan told his fellow commission members about the problems of gambling addictions. He suggested, as a start, a forum of gambling treatment experts to meet with the commission to talk about possible recommendations.

Gearan said it makes sense for the commission to be "proactive" on the gambling addiction issue. "I think it's timely for us to discuss this important issue," he said on a topic he called "a personal interest of mine."

Earlier in the meeting, the board filled the first three of five seats on a new casino siting panel that will offer non-binding recommendations on where four new commercial casinos will be located upstate in the coming year. The board formally tapped, as previously announced, three individuals: Paul Francis, a former state budget director; Stuart Rabinowitz, president of Hofstra University; and William Thompson, the former New York City comptroller. The committee's first major task will be the release of a request for application that casino developers will use to apply for the four licenses.

The commission adopted a final set of rules requiring the previous owner of a claimed horse to provide within 48 hours to the new owner a record of corticosteroid joint injections that were made within 30 days before the claiming race.

The board also approved a rule proposed last year regarding the use of extracorporeal shock wave therapy, radial pulse wave therapy, and similar treatments. Officials said Finger Lakes Racetrack and the New York Racing Association supported the rule change, officials said. The rule states that such treatments may be performed only by licensed veterinarians who use devices and are done at locations previously approved by the Gaming Commission. Trainers will be required to notify the commission within one day of the use of such treatments.

The commission also amended a rule previously proposed in November, but not yet adopted, involving a range of controlled therapeutic medications. Officials called the amendments substantive and technical, including the threshold for "unapproved drugs." The commission's pre-meeting agenda noted that the "proposal of per se threshold rules for Thoroughbred racing should be revised to omit the proposed zero (limit of detection) threshold for all "unapproved drugs capable of affecting race performance."

"At the heart of the national recommendations was the 'strict' regulation of all drugs capable of affecting a horse's bodily systems that were not among the 'approved' 24 drugs that had been identified by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium," the Racing Commission's agenda states.

"This recommendation was to have been accomplished by uniformly forbidding any detectable amounts of such unapproved drugs in a racehorse's post-race samples. The RMTC and the Association of Racing Commissioners International have altered course and now urge all racing commissions not to adopt such a uniform and strict approach for 'unapproved' drugs.

"This abandonment of the national goal of limiting horsepersons to only 24 'approved' drugs close to race day is not irrational, as such an ambitious approach would have required the commitment of all significant racing jurisdictions. Among other issues, there are numerous beneficial drugs that can be detected long after their therapeutic effects have disappeared, and one would need to have uniform thresholds for the contaminants that are unavoidable in the racehorse environment (and cannot in race-day samples be distinguished from drug administrations). Most importantly, despite efforts, RMTC and ARCI failed to develop a consensus for uniformity because of the inherent organizational limitations of those bodies."

The plan, which is still in a rulemaking phase and so was not given final adoption, also involves clenbuterol. The rule had called for restricting the drug within 14 days of a race, a move backed by the Thoroughbred industry. But harness industry officials said such a time ban would unfairly hit harness horses that run more often than Thoroughbreds. For Standardbred horses only, officials said the revised 14-day rule for clenbuterol will apply to horses that have not raced within 30 days, but imposes a 96-hour ban if the horse races more frequently than once a month.

The commission also proposed a new rule regarding the reporting requirements when a racehorse is gelded. "Information regarding the gelding of a horse is important for racing secretaries, horse identifiers, and the betting public," a commission document states.

Such information would require, under the proposal, to be reported by a trainer within 72 hours of the alteration if done at a track and prior to the next entry of the horse in a race if the surgery is performed at a different site. It notes current rules do not explicitly state that such updates about a race horse be provided to officials. The rule is already in place in three other states, including California.

"A trainer who enters a gelding, or who causes a gelding to be entered on his or her behalf, is responsible for ensuring that the horse's status as a gelding is listed accurately on the horse's certificate of registration on file in the racing office," the new proposal states. It requires the reports to include the name of the veterinarian doing the surgery and the date.

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