McConnell Leads Senate Passage of Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act

‘Kentucky’s cherished horseracing traditions deserve to be protected’

McConnell official 600

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) led the Senate on Monday, December 21, 2020 in passing his Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which was included in the year-end government funding bill. The legislation now goes to President Trump’s desk to become law. Senator McConnell introduced the bipartisan legislation in September, only days after the 146th Kentucky Derby, to recognize a uniform, national standard for Thoroughbred racing.

“Kentucky’s cherished horseracing traditions deserve to be protected. I’m proud the Senate agreed to my legislation to preserve our signature racing industry and the 24,000 workers who support it,” said Senator McConnell. “With the leadership of Congressman Andy Barr and the partnership of sport leaders, horse advocates, and fans, we’re one step closer to promoting fairness and safety across Thoroughbred racing. As Majority Leader, I made this Kentucky-focused legislation a top priority in the Senate. I look forward to this major advancement for our beloved sport becoming law.”

The House of Representatives passed the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act in September led by U.S. Congressmen Andy Barr (KY-06) and Paul Tonko (NY-20). U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)—Senators representing states with prominent racetracks—were original cosponsors in the Senate.

“With today’s passage of HISA in Congress we are in the final stretch of achieving the most transformational and consequential reform of the Thoroughbred horseracing industry since enactment of the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978,” said Congressman Barr. “For almost a decade, I have worked with industry stakeholders and my Congressional colleagues to build consensus around reforms that will protect equine athletes and strengthen confidence and international competitiveness in the sport. I am proud to champion this historic, bipartisan legislation with Congressman Paul Tonko and Leader McConnell and I look forward to President Trump signing it into law.”

In August, Senator McConnell and Congressman Barr joined horseracing leaders in Lexington, the Horse Capital of the World, to announce an agreement years in the making to create national standards for the sport. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority will be an independent regulatory authority, similar to other professional sports, to set medication use and safety protocols.

The bipartisan legislation has earned broad support from trainers, breeders, jockeys, and other leaders of the Thoroughbred racing industry:  

“Senator McConnell’s leadership has been critical in bringing the Thoroughbred industry together and prioritizing the passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act,” said Bill Carstanjen, Chief Executive Officer, Churchill Downs Incorporated. “This is a pivotal moment for the future of horseracing, a sport that will now be governed by world class, uniform standards across the United States.”

“The passage of HISA is a landmark moment for the Thoroughbred racing community’s ongoing efforts to ensure our horses are running under the safest and most transparent conditions possible and to protect the integrity of the sport for our athletes, horsemen and fans. The independent Authority established by HISA will bring a level of consistency and accountability that will improve our sport for years to come as they work to develop and implement uniform anti-doping, medication control and operational measures. Keeneland is honored to have been involved in this ground-breaking legislation,” said Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason jointly with President-elect Shannon Arvin.

“This marks the single most significant safety and integrity development in the history of Thoroughbred racing. This moment also demonstrates that great progress can be accomplished when the industry works together,” said Drew Fleming, President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup. “We recognize that there is more to be done and we look forward to working with our counterparts to build on this momentum and further improve the sport for generations to come.”

“I’d like to thank Senate Majority Leader McConnell for diligently focusing on getting this much-needed bill included in the must-pass Omnibus Appropriations Bill,” said Stuart S. Janney, III, Chairman of The Jockey Club. “Leader McConnell has been a powerful force when it comes to promoting and supporting the Thoroughbred industry in Kentucky and throughout the nation. With the passage of this bill, we restore confidence with our fans that the competition is clean, the game is fair and the horse and rider are protected."

“We thank Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his pivotal role in the passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) by the U.S. Senate,” said Alex Waldrop, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA). “We look forward to President Trump signing the HISA into law and by doing so, commencing the establishment of an independent and well-informed central authority that will ensure the integrity of our sport and the safety of our human and equine athletes nationwide.”

“This is a monumental step forward that will help secure the future of Thoroughbred racing in the United States,” said Dave O’Rourke, President & CEO of the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA). “For the first time, the sport will have a unified set of national safety and integrity standards to replace an outdated system that relied on patchwork regulation. The HISA will achieve the type of reforms long supported and advanced by NYRA, including a national approach to medication control and strongest anti-doping authority the sport has ever seen. This legislation will further modernize horseracing and arrives at a critical juncture in its history. NYRA looks forward to the work that lies ahead.”

“This is the day that the members of the Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA) have long been waiting for,” said Staci Hancock, Managing Member of the Water Hay Oats Alliance. “Since 2012 our grassroots movement has supported the passage of federal legislation to prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs in horseracing. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) brings much needed drug and medication reform, as well as national track safety standards, to our sport. It is with great pride and complete satisfaction that WHOA celebrates the bill's passage. We thank Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Sponsors, Congressmen Andy Barr and Paul Tonko, for getting it across the finish line.”

Kitty Block, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and Sara Amundson, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund jointly stated:

“This is a blue ribbon moment in the history of American horseracing, and this well-crafted measure sets the bar high and is a reminder that goodwill is indispensable in our politics. Working together with stakeholders to get it across the finish line, Senator McConnell and other leaders have helped to put the industry on a strong path to positive reforms. With their success in brokering an agreement with disparate stakeholders, and their dedicated work in the stretch run, Majority Leader McConnell, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Dianne Feinstein and Martha McSally and Reps. Andy Barr and Paul Tonko have risen to the occasion, building a broad base of support for lasting and meaningful change.”

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