August 12, 2016
Tom LaMarra, Blood-Horse

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and its Washington, D.C., lobbying firm are playing the waiting game regarding tax changes that would allow pari-mutuel bettors to keep more of their winnings.

The effort to raise federal withholding levels on winning bets has dragged on for years. NTRA president Alex Waldrop and Greg Means, a co-founder of The Alpine Group, provided an update on various legislative efforts during an Aug. 11 briefing in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Means noted Congress “isn’t passing a lot of tax bills,” and that to pass the pari-mutuel provisions would have to be part of broad tax reform legislation. The NTRA instead is working with the Department of Treasury to alter language so the amount of a wager is the total investment in a single pari-mutuel pool rather than the base amount of the winning combination.

“I don’t like people taking my money, and I don’t like it coming out of the flow of the racetrack,” Means said. “But (pari-mutuel tax legislation) is not going to pass (Congress) by itself. We’ve got to skin this cat a different way.”

Several lawmakers have publicly encouraged the Department of Treasury to move quickly on the suggested code changes, but whether it does remains to be seen.

“Every client I have has some (federal) tax efficiency issue,” Means said. “At some point the president and Congress will want to reform the tax code and that will be our chance to work on this. But if we can get this done (with the Department of Treasury) it will solve a big part of the withholding issue.”

Means and Waldrop both said they don’t expect Congress to involve itself with daily fantasy sports, which is being regulated—or banned—on a state-by-state basis. Waldrop said early in the process DFS operators were joking about state-by-state regulation of pari-mutuel racing.

“They’re living our lives now,” Waldrop said. “It has been pushed down to the state level. They see no shot at the federal level.”

As for the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015, which would give the United States Anti-Doping Agency oversight of equine medication, drug testing, and enforcement and create a governing authority whose members would be chosen by USADA, the NTRA has taken no position.

“We don’t have a position on that bill,” Means said. “We have members on both sides of that issue. I don’t get involved in a fight that doesn’t involve me.”

Waldrop said the NTRA through its Safety and Integrity Alliance and involvement in the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium actively works for full adoption of the National Uniform Medication Program, which is a state-by-state initiative.

“We work to push uniform rules on a daily basis,” Waldrop said. “I think there is a consensus on this on the state level. Where we agree, we work. (The NTRA) is a consensus-based organization.”

The NTRA counts among its members major racing associations and horsemen’s groups that don’t support the federal bill for various reasons.