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LUBBOCK, Texas (April 1, 2022) On March 31, U.S. District Court Judge James Wesley Hendrix issued a ruling in National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association v. Black. While Judge Hendrix’s opinion recognizes the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) as constitutional under current precedent, he included compelling statements that indicate there remains a need to clarify the matters at issue in the lawsuit. In the lawsuit, National Horsemen’s Benevolent Association (HBPA) and a group of its affiliates argued that Congress cannot delegate the ability to regulate the entire horseracing industry in America to an unelected body of private citizens called the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority.
“Aspects of this law will have a devastating effect on our industry and put many hardworking horsemen and horsewomen out of business,” said National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback. “We’ve been saying for several years that this legislation was illegal. We are considering our options to appeal the decision and remain committed to doing due diligence to ensure a legal solution that protects the health and welfare of our equine and human athletes is adopted.”
In his decision, Judge Hendrix acknowledged his court cannot “expand or constrict” the precedents, which makes the ruling ripe for appeal. Judge Hendrix wrote, “The Horsemen are correct that HISA creates a novel structure that nationalizes regulation of the horseracing industry.… Although the Horsemen make compelling arguments that HISA goes too far, only appellate courts may expand or constrict precedent. This Court cannot.”
National HBPA and affiliates in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Tampa Bay are represented by the Liberty Justice Center, a national nonprofit law firm dedicated to protecting fundamental constitutional rights.
“We are encouraged that Judge Hendrix recognized the strength of our arguments and plan to push them vigorously on appeal,” said Daniel Suhr, managing attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “Congress cannot cede its legal authority to regulate an entire industry to a private organization. This case remains important to protect the integrity of not only the horseracing industry but also our Constitution.”
HISA still faces a separate federal lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. That suit filed in Lexington, KY., was brought by the United States Trotting Association; the states of Oklahoma, West Virginia and Louisiana with support from six additional states; and other entities that include two racing commissions and the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association. In the best interest of horse racing, horsemen and horsewomen, we must continue to exercise our due diligence and see this through. The National HBPA appreciates the process. We believe Judge Hendrix has done deliberative, supportive work and has provided a path to move forward with our challenge.
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. Case filings are available here: National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association v. Black.