Has RCI Gone To The Dogs? California Regulators May Drop Membership

Citing a new formula determining board seats and philosophical differences over medication policy, the California Horse Racing Board will consider withdrawing its membership in the Association of Racing Commissioners International at Thursday’s regularly scheduled CHRB meeting in Pleasanton, Calif.

According to the meeting package prepared for Thursday’s meeting, the CHRB has been a member of RCI since 1994 and currently pays $27,500 in annual dues to the non-governmental agency that has no direct regulatory authority. “Its members individually possess regulatory authority within their jurisdictions and each jurisdiction solely determines at its discretion whether to adopt RCI recommendations on policies and rules,” the CHRB meeting package says of RCI.

As one of the five largest jurisdictions within RCI, the CHRB had automatically been awarded a board seat.  Earlier this year, the meeting package states, RCI “changed the formula from total dollars wagered to the number of racing events. Under the new formula, which placed an emphasis on dog racing, California lost its seat to West Virginia.”

In lieu of an automatic seat, a CHRB representative was nominated and subsequently elected to the RCI board.

“As importantly,” the meeting package continues, “California is moving in a different direction as RCI in the area of medication regulation. California is moving to implement the more restrictive international standards of medication regulation which we believe is necessary for racing’s long-term success. RCI leadership disagrees that racing has a medication problem and has consistently supported the continued use of Lasix in racing. Both are increasingly in conflict with the CHRB’s recent actions and stated position on use of the medication.”

Ed Martin, president of the RCI, said the change to the organization’s bylaws to favor live race dates over handle did not intentionally emphasize dog racing over horse racing and that he expects the language to be changed to exclude dog racing from the totals. “The intent was not to knock out any major states,” Martin said.

As far as the differences on medication policies, Martin said, “I don’t know where that’s coming from. We do not deny in any way, shape or form that we have got a problem with people trying to cheat. As far as the Lasix issue, the board – of which the CHRB has been active members – makes the model rules. My job is to advocate for those rules.

“California has changed some policies,” Martin added. “We are in the process of setting up a board call. It would be our hope that if (CHRB) want their changes to be made into model rules, they would state their case on that call.”

Martin said if the CHRB withdraws its membership, California regulators would no longer have access to the RCI database, which includes penalties imposed on licensees across the country.

“That creates a little bit of an issue for them – not being able to see the rap sheets,” he said. “I would hope Chairman (Chuck) Winner and the members really consider that carefully.”

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