By: Tom Precious

State regulators in New York State have adopted a new equine drug rule that tracks a national model plan advanced in late 2016 by the Association of Racing Commissioners International and a number of key industry stakeholders.

The New York Gaming Commission, after receiving no correspondence in either support or opposition during a recently closed public comment period, unanimously approved the new set of rules July 16 at its monthly board meeting.

“This rule-making is needed to adopt a broad prohibition of performance-enhancing drugs, a mandate for veterinary oversight of drug use, and a restriction on experimental drugging of Thoroughbred racehorses,” the agency stated in a written explanation of the measure that was circulated earlier this year in a state publication.

The board noted the previous rule guiding the administration of blood or gene doping agents and other substances dates back to 2010 as a response to erythropoietin (EPO) in racehorses. But with better testing, the new rule states that “the need to prohibit additional categories and substances and methods has become clear.”

The new rule will now ban the use of all substances the World Anti-Doping Agency bans in human competition, with the exception of those for approved therapeutic use.

“This would broadly prohibit the use of such performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing. In addition, the proposal would specify the conditions required for restricted equine therapeutic use of a few substances,” the rule documents state.

The idea was originally pushed, New York regulators said, by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

The new rule also contains expanded responsibilities for veterinarians. It bans administration of any drug “except in the valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship between an attending veterinarian” and the horse’s owner or trainer and the horse.

“The owner is not required by this subdivision to follow the veterinarian’s instructions, but no drug may be administered without a veterinarian having examined the horse and provided the treatment recommendation,” the rule states.

Some of the provisions came out of a covert investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals involving trainer Steve Asmussen in 2013, board officials said.

Other issues heard by the board included an update on the status of sports wagering regulation. The agency’s executive director, Ronald Ochym, told the board the agency’s staff is still considering a regulatory framework to permit sports wagering to be offered by the state’s four commercial casinos. Sports gambling ventures by those casinos was given preliminary approval in 2013 by the governor and Legislature.

New York officials in 2013 permitted those four casinos to offer sports wagering only if a federal ban on sports wagering is lifted and the state Gaming Commission issues regulations to govern the activities. The federal ban has been lifted but the Gaming Commission never issued the regulations in the years prior to the widely expected court case decided in May by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ochym told the board July 16 that “despite much attention” to the matter following the court’s ruling, the New York State Legislature failed to pass legislation to put more details in a law governing sports gambling. He did not mention that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo did not embrace the idea, either.

Ochym said there are still some “thorny” issues not yet resolved, such as whether the four casinos would have to limit sports gambling activities to their physical locations, as the law would seem to require, or if they could also offer online sports wagering to consumers anywhere in New York State. Also unresolved, the agency official said, is whether the casinos would be required to use—and purchase—data for gambling purposes from the major sports leagues.