Action on Federal Bills Appears Longshot

The odds for Congress passing legislation related to equine medication and Internet gambling this year are long, a Washington, D.C.-based official said May 1 during the University of Kentucky Equine Law Conference in Lexington.

American Horse Council president Jay Hickey, who has been based in the nation's capital since 1993, said a lack of consensus in various industries makes passage of legislation difficult.

The Interstate Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which calls for the United States Anti-Doping Agency to regulate equine medication use and gives the agency power under the Interstate Horseracing Act, which governs interstate simulcasts, has had one hearing, Hickey said.

"Most of the (racing) industry supports uniform model reforms," Hickey said in reference to the National Uniform Medication Program. "It's a very complicated issue, and feelings are running high. We'll see if Congress and others will step in.

"It's sort of like the Internet gambling (issue). In my opinion it will be very hard to pass federal legislation unless there is a consensus and some form of uniformity in the industry."

Internet gambling is even more divisive. Hickey said there are three bills: One would ban all Internet gambling with the exception of sports betting but also would affirm pari-mutuel horse racing's protection under the IHA and exempt it from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act; a second would legalize online poker while offering the same protections for horse racing; and a third would impose a 4% tax on money deposited in Internet gambling accounts.

A different interpretation of the federal Wire Act by the federal Department of Justice has led to several states authorizing in-state Internet casino gambling. Under the bill calling for a federal ban, that activity as well as online lotteries would be outlawed.

"What's going to happen with all this? Probably nothing," Hickey said. "I don't think Congress is ready to (take action on the issue). There is too much confusion. There are too many factions involved."

Meanwhile, tax breaks such as racehorse depreciation could be included in time-sensitive legislation and made retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014, said Hickey, who noted permanent federal tax reforms are unlikely this year.

On another front, the AHC is working with the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the United States Equestrian Federation to develop a biosecurity plan for equine disease outbreaks in the United States. Hickey said the system will "hopefully be where people go to get accurate, updated information (on any outbreaks)."

The AHC in recent years has been involved with federal agencies to better monitor the tracking of horses in relation to disease outbreaks.

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