Organizations representing Thoroughbred horse owners and trainers have filed a federal lawsuit to stop a new law in which Congress punted on its legislative duties and, instead, handed the power to regulate horse racing over to a private group. The suit claims that under the new law, the authority created is allowed to monopolize power and change not only the rules, but the federal laws that govern horse racing across the country.

Passed as part of the Dec. 2020 COVID-19 stimulus plan, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) ends 125 years of state regulation, the suit claims, and nationalizes control over horse racing by creating and ceding federal lawmaking power to a private, nongovernmental body called the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, or the “Authority.”

The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (National HBPA) and state affiliates in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia, are suing the newly created “Authority” and the Federal Trade Commissioners, who are tasked with nothing more than rubber stamping their rules. In addition, they are suing the Nominating Committee and asking the court to immediately stop them from appointing the Board members of the Authority. They are represented by attorneys at the Liberty Justice Center, a national public interest law firm that defends constitutional rights.

“All Americans should be concerned when Congress gives power to regulate an entire industry to a private group of industry insiders,” said Brian Kelsey, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center“This goes way beyond setting rules for the sport of horse racing. This is not the NBA or the NFL. The ‘Authority’ has the power to make laws, issue subpoenas and effectively tax owners with little real oversight. Placing that power in a private organization is illegal and must be stopped.”

The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and its affiliates fought against similar legislation for several years, starting in 2015. Opponents on Capitol Hill claimed that HISA illegally delegated power to a private entity.

“There’s a real concern among Thoroughbred horse owners that this could put us out of business,” said Bill Walmsley, president of the Arkansas HBPA. “By passing HISA, Congress picked winners and losers and put well-connected owners in charge of horse racing across the country. There was no serious debate or discussion about the costs, let alone the legality of creating a private group to control horse racing.”

The lawsuit, National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association v. Black, was filed on March 15, 2021, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.