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Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Bad Bill; A Better Bill

In Maryland, the state legislature is attempting to take away private property rights from track owners thanks to a bill filed by Senator Simonaire.  If Senate Bill 858 becomes law, the only exclusions from racetracks which will not be eligible for appeal to the Maryland Racing Commission (MRC) would be those involving termination of employment of a track employee or an ejection resulting from a suspension issued by the state.  All other expulsions would be appealable to the MRC.

The bill requires the track to give a written explanation as to why the individual has been expelled from the track within 24 hours of the expulsion and gives the individual affected 20 days to appeal to the MRC.  If the MRC finds the expulsion improper, it may order the track to allow the said individual to return to the track.

This bill, if approved would set racing back with regards to integrity.  I will be the first person to agree usage of the right of exclusion granted as a private property owner should be used judiciously.  But to ask a track operator to give written notice for the reason of exclusion sets the operator up for civil action such as libel and/or slander.  As such, tracks would be hesitant to use their private property rights.

In addition, a track trying to protect the integrity of their racing product could be impaired by the racing commission.  Too many times we find state racing commissions unwilling to get involved with long term suspensions or license revocations because they lack the will or financial ability to get tied up in court for a long period of time.  Tracks, through their private property rights, do not need to worry about being tied up in court so they are able to protect their 'brand' by removing such individuals from participating at their track.

Instead of the proposed bill, I would suggest a different bill be considered.  The bill I would propose would require any exclusion of a horsemen's group representative be reviewed by the MRC to ensure a person was not excluded because of their activities on behalf of the horsemen's group.  In addition, the track should be required periodically to provide the MRC with a list of individuals excluded so the racing commission can ensure the exclusionary right is not being abused and if necessary order corrective remedies.

The rights of a private track operator to exclude certain individuals must be preserved but I do believe the state has the responsibility to ensure such rights are not abused.  I urge Maryland legislators to defeat Senate Bill 858.

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