Edited Press Release
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Daniel Suhr, managing attorney for the Liberty Justice Center, told an assembly of racehorse owners, trainers and racing regulators Tuesday that they expect the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act (HISA) to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court– and they also believe America’s highest court will strike down the legislation as unconstitutional.
While the room at the Hotel Monteleone was populated with folks concerned how HISA will impact their industry, Landry and Suhr said the four legal challenges before the Fifth and Sixth Circuits have much broader implications for the country. HISA, originally passed by Congress when slipped into the 2020 Covid relief bill, sets up a private corporation, also known as HISA or the Authority, with broad powers to create, implement and enforce safety rules and drug and medication policies with the Federal Trade Commission providing some measure of oversight.
Landry, who brought suit against HISA in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Louisiana, was the keynote speaker Tuesday on the first of three days of panel discussions and presentations at the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association (NHBPA) conference being held in conjunction with the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI), which represent pari-mutuel racing regulators.
“If we don’t get this thing struck down, you better have this meeting in probably the dining room–and I mean the small dining room here at the Monteleone,” Landry said. “It will be a bunch of folks who have more money in their pockets than they know what to do with. And they’re going to control the tracks and horse racing, and the rest of us really won’t be able to enjoy the sport. This law is actually designed to eliminate the very fabric of horse racing. And so we stood up.
“I said, ‘We are going to keep filing suits, and we’re going to find a way to bring this thing to the U.S. Supreme Court if we have to. Guess what? We are there. And I’m glad we’re there. I know the Sixth Circuit decision (upholding HISA, in contrast to the Fifth Circuit’s appellate court ruling) was not all that great for us. But quite frankly, I think it was. Because it is going to absolutely force this case before the United States Supreme Court.”
Suhr added, “I believe this case is important not just for this industry. I know it is. But I’m here because I believe it’s important for our country and our democracy, and I don’t say that lightly. Because fundamentally what we’re fighting about is accountability, transparency and fairness, which are core guarantees of our Constitution to all of us as citizens. When the government exercises power in our lives, when it comes into our business, our families, it is accountable to voters, it is transparent to the stakeholder community, to the news media and to all of us as citizens. And it is neutral. It is independent and it is fair when it exercises that power.”
Suhr said, based on their written SCOTUS opinions, that he believes there are enough justices to strike down HISA. “There’s no such thing as a slam dunk in my business,” he said. “It’s a lot like yours. Everything is a little bit of a gamble. But I do this for a living and I can tell you, we brought this case because we believe when it gets to the Supreme Court, those fundamental principles we’ve been talking about are actually going to decide the day. I think we have a really great shot at this.”
A Tuesday afternoon panel offered concepts that could lead to uniformity without vesting so much control and power in one entity and still utilizing the existing racing commissions.
“As we all look through a different lens now, something has to be established for uniformity,” said National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback. “We want to make it constitutional and we want to make sure the right participants are helping to make the decisions. I see it as the right participants are in this room. We want uniformity based on science. We want it based on peer-reviewed research. We feel the way the (HISA) legislation was drafted, it doesn’t lean toward being based on science. I think there’s a lot of opinion in there.”