Anne M. Eberhardt

Racing Rules Get Preliminary Approval in NY

The New York Gaming Commission met Nov. 4 to consider changes in regulations.

Racing regulators in New York have given preliminary approval to a set of new threshold levels for 24 equine drugs as well as hefty fines for racetracks, lottery agents, and others who let underage people gamble.

The New York Gaming Commission, with a busy Nov. 4 agenda for the four-person board, also gave final approval to regulations governing the use of shock-wave, radial pulse wave, and similar therapy on Thoroughbred racehorses that mirrors an existing policy by the New York Racing Association that seeks to keep horses sidelined until after any numbness resulting from the procedures goes away.

The commission's newly proposed drug rules will be vetted by the industry in a series of meetings, including a public hearing, in December or early January before the NYGC takes up final adoption of a plan sometime early next year.

The 24 drugs were identified by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, and most are seen as therapeutic in nature as opposed to performance-enhancing. The rules augment New York's "time-based" drug rules that prohibit certain drugs from being in a horse's urine or blood within a certain period of time before a race.

Now, the NYGC wants to set precise levels, above which the presence of any of the 24 drugs would be considered a violation of the rules. Officials said the state worked with the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association on the proposed rules.

"The adoption of these thresholds would simplify the process of proving the use of any substance to affect race performance," according to a letter from the agency's general counsel to the NYGC members. There will be a public comment period before adoption.

NYGC chairman Barry Sample described the 24 drugs as "useful and necessary for horse racing.''

NYGC staff believes current restricted time periods for some drugs can be reduced; they cited drugs such as dantrolene, detomidine, and methocarbamol as examples. The proposed drug threshold levels set specific allowable levels for the 24 drugs, such as acepromazine (10 ng/ml in urine) and betamethasone (10 pg/ml in plasma).

The NYGC will consider certain carve outs for Standardbred horses to take into account that such horses race more often. The NYGC was told treating the Standardbred industry differently might be needed for such drugs as the bronchodilator Clenbuterol.

Given how often Standardbred horses race and the new proposed restrictions, "It might mean the drug could never be administered, which is of great concern to the Standardbred (industry),'' said Edmund Burns, general counsel for the NYGC.

But commission member John Crotty openly wondered why the drug is needed for Standardbred horses that race in an industry more than 100 years old.

The commission also made permanent a previously proposed rule to substitute plasma for urine for the purposes of testing for the presence of certain anabolic steroids in racehorses.

The NYGC also approved a set of rules to comply with a law passed earlier this year for a new account wagering system in New York. The law creates a newly covered classification: the multi-jurisdictional account wagering provider, which the proposed rules say must allow New York to inspect its books if it is to operate in the state.

The new telephone and Internet wagering rules also set account wagering fee levels; tracks and New York regional off-track betting corporations would pay an annual $500 fee per simulcast facility while multi-jurisdictional companies would pay New York $20,000 a year.

"It does not give the state what is due, but the legislature has spoken," Crotty said of the proposal. "Out-of-state ADWs represent a real threat to New York racing. This is helpful but I don't know if it in itself is sufficient."

The underage gambling proposal, which came one day before voters go to the polls statewide to consider an increase in commercial casino gambling, would set the first-ever levels for fines in New York to be levied on outlets that permit a minor to place a bet. Fines would be set on a graduated level based on violations in a year.

A track or OTB facility would, for instance, face a $1,000 fine for the first violation of letting an underage person gamble, while a track-based video lottery terminal casino would face a $5,000 fine. Lottery retailers or charitable gaming entities would get a written warning for the first violation and $500 on the second.

The highest punishment would hit tracks and OTBs and top out at $25,000 for four or more violations in a year; license revocation is also a possibility after four instances in a year in which a gambling facility lets an underage person wager.

But questions were raised about the ability of the state to enforce the new rules, given there is nothing in the state budget to allow for additional inspectors. John Poklemba, a commission member who once was the state's criminal justice commissioner, said there should be specific enforcement and training procedures in place.

The rules passed Nov. 4 now go through a formal review and public comment period and could change before going back to the NYGC early next year.