Horsemen still wary of racing agreement

CHARLES TOWN – Officials with the Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association say they are pleased with a recent decision announced by Revenue Secretary Robert Kiss to throw out a portion of an interagency agreement they had opposed at the Supreme Court of Appeals.

[cleeng_content id="137586780" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]The Horsemen say they are still reviewing the agreement, however, and are not yet sure whether they will be satisfied with the remaining portion of it.

The interagency agreement would have transferred many legal decisions made now by the Racing Commission to the Lottery Commission, and from the Attorney General’s office, which represents the Racing Commission, to the Lottery Commission’s in-house legal counsel. Hammer previously described the move as a “takeover” of the Racing Commission by the Lottery Commission.

David Hammer, the HBPA’s lawyer, said the organization had filed a writ to block the proposed agreement in an effort to avoid “arbitrary decision-making behind closed doors.”

“Under the old proposed agreement, the Racing Commission would have abdicated its responsibility for promulgating, interpreting and creating the rules of racing and instead feed all that responsibility over to the Lottery Commission,” he said. “It would turn it over to an executive agency, and their in-house counsel who are not reportable to anyone. The HBPA would lose the protection that it has from the Attorney General’s fair interpretation and application of the rules of racing.

“For HBPA members, every aspect of their businesses are governed by Racing Commission rules and regulations,” Hammer said. “Under the law, the advisor to the Racing Commission is the Attorney General.”

Hammer said that Kiss’s decision was a win for the horsemen.

“It looks like our writ has been effective, and the Racing Commission, by order of Bob Kiss the cabinet secretary upon the advice of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, has removed the section of the agreement that was offensive to us,” he said. “So the Racing Commission will no longer seek legal advice from the Lottery Commission, and the Lottery Commission is likewise directed not to provide legal advice to the Racing Commission.

“We thank the Attorney General for guiding that in the correct direction and Bob Kiss for making the right decision,” he said.

HBPA President Randy Funkhouser said his organization still had to review and evaluate remaining portions of the interagency agreement before it could determine if its members were fully satisfied with the agreement.

“The Horsemen are clearly concerned about fairness and preserving the monetary benefits that come from both racing and breeding awards,” Funkhouser said. “Our concern is maintaining that, because everything has been done so secretly.”

“Under the Open Meetings Act, we felt that it was required that we at least be able to see this and know what is involved in it.”

Funkhouser said his group has similar lingering concerns about the split of Penn National Gaming into a gaming company and a Real Estate Investment Trust, which will own the physical casinos and tracks.

Hammer previously speculated that the REIT might not hold a racing license, which would therefore leave it unregulated by the Racing Commission.

“We have not been clued in on any of the contracts, the questions that are involved,” Funkhouser said. “We are concerned about the long-term commitment to racing.

“We are naturally concerned when there is secrecy involved in what should be an open proceeding,” he said.[/cleeng_content]

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