Long-Term Solutions Sought on Insurance

Though racing companies and racetracks in major jurisdictions have taken steps to increase minimum insurance benefits for jockeys injured on track, an industry working group continues to look for long-term solutions and expand the coverage to all tracks.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association Jockey Accidental Insurance Working Group met Feb. 25 at Turfway Park. Keith Chamblin, the NTRA senior vice president of marketing and industry relations who chairs the working group, said final recommendations aren't yet ready for release.

Increased coverage isn't an issue in California, Idaho, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York, which offer workers' compensation insurance. In other racing states, up to $100,000 in benefits is offered to jockeys injured in on-track accidents.

In Florida, however, Magna Entertainment Corp. has increased the minimum benefit to $500,000, with a goal of $1 million, at Gulfstream Park. In Kentucky, Keeneland and Turfway have purchased $1-million coverage from insurance provider AIG.

Churchill Downs Inc., which owns and operates Churchill Downs and Ellis Park in Kentucky, Arlington Park in Illinois, Calder Race Course in Florida, Fair Grounds in Louisiana, and Hoosier Park in Indiana, is negotiating with a carrier to offer $1 million in coverage for jockeys at its tracks. CDI also owns Hollywood Park in California.

"A number of tracks are looking at private coverage," Chamblin said after the working group meeting. "Our goal was to strive to ensure that any coverage provided by one (NTRA-member track) is made available to all members for consideration."

The working group also is looking into how exercise riders can be included in policies.

"Nothing could be done in the short term, but there are proactive steps the industry can take over a period of time to move to broader coverage by a private carrier," Chamblin said. "The consensus is that some form of workers' compensation coverage would be a long-term solution to provide the broadest coverage."

The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority attempted to get a workers' compensation bill ready for the current General Assembly session in the state but ran out of time this year. Tom Ludt, an authority member and insurance agent, said a committee would report back to the authority by Sept. 1 with recommendations.

"It's very complex, and it would be very difficult to get done," Ludt said. "Identifying who to cover and how to cover them is a big issue."

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher said his administration would work on an expanded workers' compensation program during the 2006 legislative session.

Chamblin said the NTRA would lend support in Kentucky should, in keeping with NTRA policy, all members--racetracks and horsemen's groups--in the state ask for help. "We would be supportive of any initiative of that type if all of our members are in favor of pursuing a legislative solution," he said.