With Slots on Way, Changes in Indiana

The Indiana racing industry is preparing for life with slot machines.

Anabolic steroids, new emergency rules for horse racing, and updates on racetrack casino construction at Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs dominated the discussion during the March 11 Indiana Horse Racing Commission meeting.

With the anticipated impact slot machines will have on the state’s racing program, several rules were passed for Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing. Commissioners also voted to adopt regulations for steroids.

The IHRC first voted to allow for steroids testing in late September 2007. The Racing and Medication Testing Consortium and Association of Racing Commissioners International have since made and adopted changes to the model rule.

IHRC executive director Joe Gorajec discussed proposed penalties for positive tests during race meets at Indiana Downs and Hoosier Park. Gorajec noted that while other jurisdictions have opted for fines, suspensions, and license revocations, a positive test in Indiana will result in a $250 fine and loss of purse.

The penalties will be the same as an overage for Bute, which, like hydroxystanozolol, boldenone, nandrolone, and testosterone, is categorized as a Class 4 substance.

“That’s what I would propose bringing in initially,” Gorajec said. “Our purpose in implementing the rule is to prevent the use and abuse of anabolic steroids. We hope this will have a deterrent effect. The loss of purse is significant.”

Indiana Downs is slated to begin a 54-day Thoroughbred meet April 25. A 45-day grace period will be offered once the meet begins; trainers will be notified of steroid violations but no action will be taken.

The IHRC also unanimously passed a set of five emergency rules meant to fine-tune those already in place for Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing. Some of the more significant changes for 2008 are that horses 12 or older will be considered ineligible to race, as will be maidens that reach age six.

Gorajec said that while there are some good 12-year-olds, there aren’t many. With gaming set to open later this year at both tracks, more horses may be vying for a limited number of racing opportunities.

“I don’t want to say it can’t happen,” Indiana Downs general manager Jon Schuster said of a 12-year-old or 6-year-old maiden winning a race at his facility, “But if this goes the way we think it’s going to go, I think getting into the starting gate is going to be a premium (because of slots-fueled purses).”

Another change adopted addresses claiming procedures and eligibility. Beginning at the 2008 Indiana Downs meet, when a horse is claimed, a trainer cannot start the horse in a race “in which the determining eligibility price is less than 25% more than the price at which it was claimed” for 30 days. While Gorajec said the change was introduced to protect smaller racing outfits, others argued the rule would not allow owners to race horses where they please.

“It’s not a high-quality, low-quality issue,” Gorajec said. “It’s a big-stable, little-stable issue. We want to make sure the smaller outfits aren’t getting decimated.”

Said Indiana Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association president Herb Likens: “You should be able to race at whatever level you want to race at.”

The IHRC also adopted the modification of a rule that will now prohibit the use of snake and snail venom.

Representatives from Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs updated commissioners on the status of casino construction during the March 11 meeting. Mark Hemmerle, who is overseeing the construction of Indiana Live! Casino at Indiana Downs, said the temporary facility will be ready in mid- to late May, or possibly June. Meanwhile, the permanent facility is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year or early 2009.

Jim Brown, general manager of gaming for Hoosier Park, said he anticipates slots will be operating in June. “Our project is on time and on budget,” he said. “We’ll offer fully-integrated gaming, racing, and dining.”

Hoosier Park will begin a 71-day harness meet April 5.