United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
NEW ENGLAND HORSEMEN'S BENEVOLENT AND PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION, INC., Plaintiff,
MASSACHUSETTS THOROUGHBRED HORSEMEN'S ASSOCIATION, INC. AND MIDDLEBOROUGH AGRICULTRUAL SOCIETY Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO
Dennis Saylor IV, United States District Judge.
action arises out of an alleged violation of the Interstate
Horseracing Act. Plaintiff New England Horsemen's
Benevolent and Protective Association alleges that defendants
Massachusetts Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and
Middleborough Agricultural Society violated the Interstate
Horseracing Act by entering into a “purse
agreement” under which defendants agreed to permit
simulcasting of, and interstate off-track betting on, races
hosted by Middleborough Agricultural Society at Brockton
Fairgrounds racetrack. Plaintiff contends that it, and not
the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, is
the only group authorized by the Interstate Horseracing Act
to enter into such agreements.
have moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Defendants contend that plaintiff has
failed to allege an actual violation of the Interstate
Horseracing Act-that is, has failed to allege that any party
has accepted interstate off-track wagers without first
obtaining the proper consent-and that therefore the complaint
does not present a federal question sufficient to confer
subject-matter jurisdiction and has failed to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.
reasons set forth below, the motions to dismiss will be
The Interstate Horseracing Act
Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 (the “IHA”),
15 U.S.C. § 3004(a), regulates interstate off-track
wagering on horseracing. In passing the IHA, “Congress
recognized that the unrestricted proliferation of off-track
wagering would hurt the horseracing industry by decreasing
attendance at racetracks which, in turn, would reduce the
number of horses needed to compete and the number of
individuals employed in the industry.” Kentucky
Div., Horsemen's Benev. & Protective Ass'n, Inc. v.
Turfway Park Racing Ass'n, Inc., 20 F.3d 1406, 1414
(6th Cir. 1994). The IHA regulates, but does not prohibit,
interstate off-track wagering by “balancing the
interests of the horseracing industry against those of the
interstate off-track wagering industry.” Id.
Congress thus sought to support both the horseracing and
interstate off-track wagering industries, but to do so in a
relatively narrow way that otherwise left states in control
of gambling within their borders. See id.; 15 U.S.C.
enlists the horseracing industry itself to help regulate the
growth of interstate off-track wagering, Kentucky Div.
Horsemen's Benev & Protective Ass'n, 20 F.3d at
1414, and to ensure that horsemen are compensated for their
role in enabling off-track betting, Churchill Downs, Inc.
v. Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group, LLC, 605 F.Supp.2d
870, 882 (W.D. Ky. 2009). To this end, the IHA prohibits
off-track betting systems from accepting interstate off-track
wagers absent the consent of (1) “the host racing
association, ” (2) “the host racing commission,
” and (3) “the off-track racing
commission.” 15 U.S.C. § 3004(a). However, a host
racing association cannot provide its consent unless it first
has a written agreement with “the horsemen's
group” that sets forth the terms and conditions for the
distribution of off-track betting revenues. 15 U.S.C. §
3004(a)(1)(A). “Horsemen's group” is defined,
“with reference to the applicable host racing
association, ” as “the group which represents the
majority of owners and trainers racing there, for the races
subject to the interstate off-track wager on any racing
day.” 15 U.S.C. § 3002(12).
facts are set forth as alleged in the complaint.
England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association,
Inc. (“NEHBPA”) is a Massachusetts non-profit
corporation that represents Massachusetts horsemen in
contract negotiations with Massachusetts racetracks. (Compl.
¶¶ 2, 17). As stated in its bylaws, the purpose of
the NEHBPA is to “advocate in the best interests and
property rights of the horsemen” on issues such as
“purse monies; purse contracts; sale of live racing
signal; . . . inter-track wagering contracts and fees;
off-track betting contracts and fees; . . . safety, repair
and improvement of all racetrack facilities; and all other
matters of interest that may affect horsemen.”
(Id. ¶ 17). NEHBPA has been the sole
representative of Massachusetts horsemen since its
incorporation in 1992. (Id. ¶ 16). It has
approximately 826 members. (Id.).
Massachusetts Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, Inc.
(“MassTHA”) was formed in 2015 by several members
of NEHBPA who had unsuccessfully sought leadership positions
in that organization's most recent elections.
(Id. ¶¶ 16, 18). MassTHA has not, as of
yet, held elections for executive officers or members of the
Board of Directors. (Id. ¶ 19). Absent
elections, William Lagorio leads MassTHA as its
self-appointed president. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 19).
The complaint alleges that MassTHA has few, if any, member
horsemen who have consented to be represented by the
organization. (Id. ¶ 4).
2015, the Middleborough Agricultural Society
(“MAS”) submitted an application to the
Massachusetts Gaming Commission to run a fifteen-day live
racing meet at the Brockton Fairgrounds racetrack in 2016.
(Id. ¶ 23). The Brockton Fairgrounds track had
not been used since 2001, when several thoroughbred horses
were injured during a race. (Id. ¶ 9). The MAS
application was granted. (Id. ¶ 25). The NEHBPA
then sought to negotiate a purse agreement with MAS, hoping
to reach an agreement that would include measures to ensure a
safe meet at Brockton. (Id. ¶ 26).
to the complaint, MAS refused to negotiate with NEHBPA.
(Id.). Instead, in early 2016, MAS entered into a
purse agreement with MassTHA to conduct live thoroughbred
racing at the Brockton Fairgrounds during 2016 and 2017.
(Id. ¶ 5). The complaint alleges that MassTHA
entered into the contract with MAS without any bargaining or
advocacy on behalf of horsemen. (Id. ¶ 37). The
contract allegedly fails to address multiple safety concerns
with respect to the racetrack. (Id. ¶ 32). It
also authorizes MAS to negotiate with simulcast and receiving
facilities for the simulcasting of live races, and the
conduct of off-track wagering on races, held at Brockton.
(Id. ¶ 34). It further states that “MAS
shall not be making any payments to MassTHA or the
Horsemen” for any ...