Horse racing's main body of regulators called Tuesday for formation of an interstate compact by 2012 for more uniform racing rules and to enable the sport to deal with problems faster.
Racing now is governed by a quilt of differing rules on everything from what drugs can be used in horses to what bets are legal.
The sport still won't have a national governing body, but under the proposed regulatory structure, states would sign onto the compact and agree to jointly develop and adopt rules.
"State regulation of racing is not going to change," said Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International. "But what we've done is put forth a proposal to make it work more uniformly and more efficiently."
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RCI announced it has adopted a three-year strategic plan to push for the Racing and Wagering Regulatory Compact and for new limits on the use of common painkillers known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids.
RCI also wants to create a wagering security consortium made up of tracks, regulators, tote companies and advance-deposit wagering platforms. The public-private partnership would pool resources to tackle complicated betting security problems such as parimutuel "pool" manipulation, money laundering and network security.
"The enforcement of the rules is envisioned to be left with individual states, as well as adjudication," Martin said.
He said states that join the compact would need to agree on a funding mechanism, but he said such a compact could save states money by eliminating redundancies.
Lisa Underwood, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said she is working on bringing the compact and the other proposals before the commission. Underwood is on the RCI steering committee that has worked on the proposals for the past year.
"It will help streamline some of the regulatory process," Underwood said. "There will still be plenty of opportunity for public input, but it will make it a little bit easier to get rules through the process and, hopefully, lead to more uniformity as well."
To sign onto the compact would require the approval of the Kentucky General Assembly. Kentucky already belongs to a licensing compact.
Underwood said that at least six states would have to join before the new compact would go into effect, but development of rules could begin beforehand.
"We wanted to make sure we would be comfortable with a rule before we would sign onto it. So you can opt out if there's a rule you don't think is going the right direction. You're not bound to it," she said. The group hopes that as racing jurisdictions participate, they will reach consensus on the rules as they are being developed.
RCI, which comprises 44 jurisdictions and nine countries, has been working with the Council of State Governments in Lexington and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, The Jockey Club, the U.S. Trotting Association, the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and Keeneland to develop the model for state rules for horse and dog racing.
RCI will take up many of the issues, including changes to drug rules, April 12 to 15 at a conference in Lexington.
Martin said veterinarians have expressed concern that current medication rules on NSAIDs and corticosteroid use during training "may jeopardize the integrity of pre-race examinations and unnecessarily expose horses and riders to potential danger," Martin said.
Such medications are legal and have therapeutic value, he said, but "they should not be used to mask an injury or condition that, if present, should preclude a horse from participation."
Most states allow the use of one NSAID up to 24 hours before a race; regulatory vets have proposed pushing that deadline back, he said. "They've raised the concern that they're not getting a clean look on the pre-race exam."