12/15/2015 4:11PM

RCI seeking options to unify state regulations


The Association of Racing Commissioners International will explore options over the next year that would allow for states to work collectively to implement and enforce new rules, officials for the organization said on Tuesday.

Ed Martin, the president of RCI, said on Tuesday that the options could include revisiting the idea of federal legislation establishing a compact among states, a tactic that the organization has considered in the past but has not aggressively pursued. But he also said that the organization is not tied to any one idea, and that the RCI intends to schedule meetings in locations across the U.S. in 2016 to discuss options for collective action among all racing constituencies.

“If there is a common issue we hear from everybody, whether you support federal legislation or not, it's that there needs to be a central process in which rules are devised and enforced across the entire network” of racing jurisdictions, Martin said on Tuesday afternoon. “We think there might be an opportunity to build a meaningful path forward next year.”

Earlier in the day, the RCI issued a release stating that its board voted at a meeting in Tucson last week to pursue options for collective action among its 38 racing jurisdictions. That release quoted the RCI’s chairman, Mark Lamberth, as stating that the “political divide that currently exists in the racing industry is destructive to the sport.”

Lamberth’s remarks referred to a split between supporters and opponents of a federal bill that would appoint a private company to be the overseer of the sport’s medication policies and its drug-testing programs. While many owners and breeders and their organizations have pushed for the bill, most racing commissions, racetracks, and rank-and-file horsemen’s groups support an ongoing state-by-state approach. Critics of that approach have said that progress has come too slow and that true uniformity cannot be achieved without a top-down structure.

Earlier this year, the RCI formed committees to work with racing states on the adoption of regulations that would put the states into compliance with a set of uniform rules that have the support of most major racing organizations, including those that support the federal bill. The formation of the committees was widely interpreted as a reaction to the federal effort.

The federal bill has virtually no chance of passing this year, but supporters of the effort are expected to mount an even more aggressive lobbying push next year, barring any industry-wide agreement on another path.

A compact would allow racing states to join together to form a collective body that would devise racing policies. Once the policy is approved by the ruling committee, the rule would automatically go into effect in all states that have joined the compact.

While the idea of an industry-supported compact would be included in the discussions during the 2016 meeting, Martin said that the RCI would be interested in hearing any ideas.

“I can’t tell you what the endgame is other than that we believe that if we include all stakeholders across the country in the dialogue, a path forward could become apparent,” Martin said.