Louisiana News

No timeline given for decision in Louisiana lawsuit over horseracing regulations


(The Center Square) β€” A three-judge panel with the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in New Orleans on Tuesday in lawsuits challenging the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, a nonprofit created by Congress in 2020 to regulate the industry.

"While no industry is without its problems, Louisiana, West Virginia and all the associations that have joined us in this suit have always strictly been able to effectively regulate the industry. And I believe Louisiana and its people should be firmly in control of horseracing, and not some group of politicians or corporate elites in some far-away place," Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said at a press conference Wednesday morning.

"That's what HISA has basically stood up. It stood up a group of folks who have really no stake in Louisiana and in her culture and in her heritage, and they're going to come into this state and regulate our horse racing industry."

Landry is leading the lawsuit that also includes West Virginia, both states' racing commissions, and related associations to challenge HISA and defend the states' "sovereign interest" in creating and enforcing horse racing rules.

Shae McPhee, attorney representing Louisiana, argued before the appeals court panel that the rules created by HISA came after only 14 days of public comment, which she argued is not enough time to vet the regulatory change under the federal Administrative Procedures Act, The Associated Press reports.

"Here, we have something that's never been done before," she said. "You have a takeover of an industry that's been committed to the regulation of the state since the time of the founding."

In a separate case, also argued in the fifth circuit on Tuesday, lawyers for the state of Texas and the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association argued Congress delegated too much power to HISA, which is overseen by the Federal Trade Commission.

"Never before has Congress delegated this much power to a non-governmental entity," attorney Daniel Suhr said, adding that the law "cross a fundamental constitutional line that goes to the nature of our democracy."

FTC attorney Joe Busa countered that FTC oversight acts as a check on HISA, though the FTC can only approve or disapprove proposed regulations and cannot modify them.

"If, in the FTC's independent view of what it means to treat horses humanely they think that a particular rule is just not consistent with the humane treatment of horses, the FTC can disapprove a rule on that basis," Busa said, according to the AP.

A Texas federal court initially dismissed the case there, while the Louisiana and West Virginia lawsuit resulted in an injunction on enforcement of four HISA rules in those states, an order that was later overturned.

The oral arguments came on the same day the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association issued an open letter on HISA that laid out how the THA is working with the agency to address the four rules at issue in the Louisiana and West Virginia case, and why THA officials believe further litigation is futile.

"HISA has survived constitutional challenges and the legal maneuverings now are just a distraction lacking substance. As the federal court said when it granted the limited injunction, if HISA fixes the four issues it specifically addressed as faulty, the case is over," the letter read.

"Our view was previously, and continues to be, that litigation would be costly and there is little to gain. HISA was crafted by constitutional and administrative law experts who strongly believed then, and now, that HISA would survive expected constitutional challenges."

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