09/17/2014 4:40PM

New Jersey adopts uniform medication rules

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The New Jersey Racing Commission on Wednesday adopted a set of medication rules that has been endorsed by most major racing organizations, including a new penalty scheme applying to repeat offenders, according to the executive director of the commission.

The commission adopted both sets of rules unanimously, according to Frank Zanzuccki, the longtime head of the racing commission. The rules were adopted “by reference” to the recommendations of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, which will mean that any changes adopted by the RCI, an umbrella group for racing commissions that endorses rules, will be automatically incorporated into New Jersey’s regulations.

Also at the meeting, the commission deferred taking action on a set of rules that would allow for exchange wagering in the state, a controversial form of betting that was pioneered in Britain, and instead appointed a committee of commissioners to issue recommendations on the rules in 30 days. The racing commission devised the rules this year after the legislature authorized the practice two years ago, and the rules just recently cleared a 60-day public-comment period.

“The committee will consider whether the proposed rules adequately ensure that the bets will be processed accurately and that they contain sufficient safeguards to maintain the integrity of racing in New Jersey,” said Zanzuccki.

The new medication and penalty rules will go into effect Oct. 17, two weeks prior to the close of Thoroughbred racing in the state. When the rules are in place, New Jersey will become the seventh state to fully adopt the new regulations, which were developed over the last several years as a way to revamp the sport’s policies on therapeutic and non-therapeutic medications. Approximately a dozen other states have put parts of the new rules into effect or are in the process of adopting the rules.

The rules allow for the race-day use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide and the administration of 25 other therapeutic medications by setting threshold levels in post-race blood or urine tests. The threshold levels are designed to ensure that the medications do not affect a horse’s performance or interfere with pre-race exams. Under the new guidelines, a finding of any other drug in a post-race sample will be considered a violation.

The effort to get racing states to adopt the new medication rules has been supported by the vast majority of racing organizations, but some groups, notably The Jockey Club, have criticized the pace of adoption as being far too slow. The Jockey Club and other groups are also pushing for the industry to ban the race-day use of furosemide, an effort that has driven a wedge between the pro-furosemide and anti-furosemide factions.

On the subject of exchange wagering, the New Jersey Racing Commission received comments from three entities over the past 60 days, according to Zanzuccki. One of those entities, the Jockeys’ Guild, which represents U.S. riders, raised concerns about the impact of exchange wagering on the perception of the sport, given the ability of exchange-wagering customers to profit off horses losing, Zanzuccki confirmed.

“That’s their biggest concern,” Zanzuccki said. “But frankly, that’s a concern of everyone, including the racing commission.”

Exchange wagering has also been authorized in California. However, Thoroughbred horsemen and tracks in that state have yet to come to an agreement with an exchange-wagering operator on how to split revenue from the practice, a requirement of the state law. The same requirement applies in New Jersey, but the state’s horsemen’s group currently runs the racetrack, simplifying the process, and the group has a close relationship with the largest betting-exchange operator in the world, Betfair.

Many officials have raised concerns that exchange betting could run afoul of a federal prohibition on bookmaking, and they have noted that any plan to launch the practice likely will attract the attention of the U.S. Justice Department. Exchange-wagering operators allow their customers to post prices on horses and accept bets from other customers.