Following testimony by horse racing officials, legislation authorizing Kentucky to join a proposed National Racing Compact passed through the Senate State and Local Government Committee Feb. 9 on a unanimous nine-person vote. Later that day, the bill also cleared the Senate on a vote of 37-0.
Republican Sen. Damon Thayer, chairman of the committee, explained to members how the National Racing Compact bill, which now moves to the House floor for a vote, would allow Kentucky to work with other racing states on items of joint interest, such as racing integrity; horse and jockey safety practices; and medication and wagering issues.
“This bill would make Kentucky a leader on the interstate compact issue, which has been worked on by multiple parties across the country the last several years,” said Thayer, who pre-filed the legislation in December.
If the bill clears the House, Kentucky would be the first major racing state to adopt the compact. In order for the organization to move forward, however, five additional states would also have to approve the bill.
Other jurisdictions expected to introduce legislation in 2011 are Delaware, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia. While Colorado isn’t considered a major racing state, it has already approved the compact bill.
“The compact protects our sovereignty by sending a message to the federal government that we do not need federal intervention in the horse industry,” said Thayer, who claimed that having such a national organization would allow better efficiency for racing commissions to work together and create uniformity among the states.
Rick Goodell, assistant counsel for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board and chair of the National Racing Compact, explained how the bill would give state racing commissions the option—but not require them—to participate in the same rules and programs as other states. It would simplify procedures for horsemen that race in multiple jurisdictions, Goodell explained.
“The state racing commissions would continue to perform the same functions, but at the same time (the compact) would allow them to participate in some projects and rule making in conjunction with each other,” he said.
If a racing commission disagrees with a particular rule, it may choose not to adopt the rule. But the compact, which would have officials from different states meeting on a regular basis to discuss various issues, provides a better chance at compromise and uniformity, Goodell said.
Goodell said that since there is already a National Racing Compact in place, there would be no additional cost for states to join the compact. “We’ll use the existing resources of each state commission and the national commission,” he said.
Lisa Underwood, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, has been a member of the Interstate Racing and Wagering Compact Steering Committee since it was set up in September 2009, and has been working the last two years on the language for the compact bill. She gave several reasons why the KHRC is in support of the compact: It will provide Kentucky with the opportunity to have leadership role in the organization to influence surrounding states on different issues; the KHRC doesn’t have to adopt rules it disagrees with; states can act collectively on rules they do agree on; and states would retain control and the ability to enforce their own rules.
“It’s a matter of trying to build consensus along the way and listen to different perspectives," Underwood said. "We’ll have a national input that we don’t have on the state level, and we’ll be working at same time on the rules. But states can always opt out (of rules) if they don’t think it's going in the direction they want it to go.
“If Kentucky is able to accomplish this, hopefully other states will come along.”