Jockey Injury Compensation, Compact Bills Unanimously Pass Both Houses Of Maryland General Assembly

Legislation that allows the Maryland Jockey Injury Compensation Fund to cover licensed jockeys during training hours at a racetrack or training facility licensed by the Maryland Racing Commission has passed both the Senate and House of Delegates and awaits the signature of Gov. Larry Hogan.

The bill passed the Senate on a 46-0 vote April 3, and previously cleared the House on a 136-0 vote. It’s the second racing-related bill to pass both houses unanimously during the 2018 General Assembly; the first one authorizes Maryland to launch and offer the Interstate Anti-Doping and Drug-Testing Compact.

The Maryland Jockey Injury Compensation Fund is financially supported by a contribution from the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and a $100 fee paid by owners and trainers each year when they are licensed. This year’s policy, approved by the racing commission, will cost roughly $900,000, MRC Executive Mike Hopkins said.

Hopkins noted that exercise riders aren’t covered under the fund but rather by workers’ compensation policies paid for by trainers. The legislation states that jockeys will be covered during training hours “if the principal earnings of the jockey are based on money earned as a jockey during live racing and not as an exercise rider.”

Hopkins said the actual impact on the Maryland Jockey Injury Compensation Fund policy won’t be known for at least a year because the cost of the policy is based on injuries. The change in language will take effect Oct. 1, 2018.

“It really won’t change anything (at the outset),” Hopkins said. “It’s all based on payroll and experience with the cost of training injuries.”

Maryland Jockey Club President Sal Sinatra said the legislation is another important step for Maryland racing.

“We want to make sure our athletes are covered,” Sinatra said. “We don’t want there to be a delay in benefits or treatments (after an injury). I’m very happy with it.”

The Interstate Anti-Doping and Drug-Testing Standards Compact, which also awaits Hogan’s signature, would enable member states to simultaneously adopt regulations or updates to regulations after the customary review and adoption by individual racing regulatory agencies. The Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association has been working with Mid-Atlantic racing regulators to get legislation introduced in their respective states.

The effort dovetails with passage of the National Uniform Medication Program in Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. Other states that intend to move the compact legislation this year are Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

“I’m pleased and honored that Maryland has become the first state to approve the compact, and as such is now the offeror for other states to join,” THA Chairman Alan Foreman said. “I look forward to our other Mid-Atlantic partners taking similar action in the near future.”

In Maryland, the compact bill like the jockey compensation legislation has an effective date of Oct. 1, 2018. The compact, which can take effect when it’s enacted by two eligible states, calls for each member state to have one delegate acting on behalf of its racing commission; the compact commission will require an super-majority 80% vote for a regulation to win approval.

The focus on passage of legislation is currently in the Mid-Atlantic region and New York, though Foreman said racing regulators in other parts of the United States have expressed interest in the compact given the focus on facilitating adoption of uniform rules.

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