05/15/2006 11:00PM

Louisiana jockey bill advances

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The Jockeys' Guild dropped its objections to a bill in the Louisiana Senate that would limit the ability of riders to sue racetracks in the state after reaching an undisclosed agreement with the tracks, a lawyer for the guild said on Tuesday.

The bill, which would expand the definitions of equine facilities and equine employees to include racetracks, jockeys, and exercise riders, passed out of the Louisiana State Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday on a voice vote. The bill now moves to the Senate floor.

After the vote, Shane Gusman, a guild lawyer, said that the guild is now "neutral" to the legislation. He said that the organization had agreed to drop its opposition after reaching an agreement with the tracks that would allow jockeys to sue for "willful conduct" or "negligence."

Gusman declined to provide additional details about the agreement.

Racetrack owners contend that the bill is necessary to protect their facilities from frivolous lawsuits. With the exception of Fair Grounds in New Orleans, racetracks in Louisiana run slot-machine operations that are far more lucrative than the racing side of the business.