NTRA: Legislation 'Fundamentally Flawed and Unfair'

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, in a statement released June 21, said the reworked "Combatting Illegal Gambling Reform and Modernization Act" is "fundamentally flawed and unfair," and it also said it plans to discuss the ramifications of a move by Citibank to ban use of credit cards for online wagering.

On June 18, the House Judiciary Committee, by a 15-12 vote, approved a bill that stripped exemptions for the pari-mutuel industry in regard to state-regulated wagering. In late 2000, the pari-mutuel industry was successful in obtaining modifications to the Interstate Horseracing Act.

The Internet gambling bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, came under scrutiny again when an amendment was offered to protect other forms of interstate gaming authorized by state law. Some members of the committee believed the provisions were too broad.

In the statement, the NTRA said: The legislation resulting from the committee's action -- apparently intended by some members to cripple the bill's chances of passage -- if passed by the full House and Senate and signed into law, would be very harmful to the horseracing and breeding industries. By prohibiting currently legal aspects of pari-mutuel wagering and interstate simulcasting of horseracing, it would have immediate and serious negative impacts on both track revenues and owners' purse levels.

"We do not believe the bill in its current form is a realistic candidate for passage in this Congress. It is fundamentally flawed and unfair. It fails to distinguish between legal and illegal wagering activities that utilize the Internet as a means of communication. It fails to recognize horseracing's legal and regulatory status under both federal and state law, compared to other forms of wagering.

"Therefore, even though passage of this flawed and harmful House Judiciary Committee bill is highly unlikely, the NTRA and the American Horse Council wish to underscore the industry's need to increase its Washington presence and advocacy efforts. We have begun to educate members of Congress on the fundamental differences between an agribusiness funded by legal wagering and other forms of gaming, starting with the recently established Congressional Horse Caucus, but much more needs to be done.

"The Interstate Horseracing Act itself demonstrates Congressional intent to regulate and promote interstate electronic wagering on horseracing. This status under federal law must not be rolled back through the efforts of either anti-gaming interests or those of other, much different forms of wagering competitors."

In regard to Citibank, the NTRA and AHC believe illegal Internet gambling needs to be eliminated, but they said it must be clarified whether the credit card company only means to block illegal online wagering. The organizations said they are attempting to clarity the issues.

"While we do not believe legal, state-approved wagering on horseracing should be covered by the Citibank policy, we share their concerns related to problem gaming and recognize that there is a need for special policies and programs in regard to online wagering," the statement said. "The NTRA is a member of the National Council on Problem Gaming and requires progressive, "best practice" programs in this area for all NTRA-approved account or advance deposit wagering operators, in addition to any requirements of state law or regulation."