Letter To The Editor: The 'Williams Doctrine' And A Defense Of A State's Sovereignty - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Letter To The Editor: The ‘Williams Doctrine’ And A Defense Of A State’s Sovereignty

Alan Foreman, moderator of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority panel at the recent Racing and Gaming Conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., got it just right when he said, “Rob Williams is not ubiquitous.”

Mr. Williams is the executive director of the New York State Gaming Commission.  Rob does not hide, but he rarely seeks the spotlight.  Rob Williams does not make public pronouncements often, but when he does, it behooves the racing world to listen.

It is understandable that the headlines coming out of the panel would be about horsemen's frustration with the rollout of the new federal regulatory regime and HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus' pledge to be more inclusive and transparent.  But that focus misses the most important message coming from the panel: the “Williams Doctrine.”

HISA requests (some argue demands) that state regulators collect the fees from the industry that will fund the Authority and, more importantly, allow the state regulatory workforce to be deputized into service for HISA.  In his soft-spoken but frank statement, Williams issued a stunning rebuke to Congress and to the Authority.  In the heart of Saratoga, where some of the best horse racing in the world happens every summer, the man in charge of New York's horse racing regulatory scheme said, “No.  No, New York will not yield its sovereignty and authority and be conscripted by a private, quasi-governmental at best, authority created by Congress. ”

Mr. Williams' logic is as simple as it is unassailable.  He pointed out, quite correctly, “I work for the taxpayers of New York; my authority to regulate comes from the people of New York as expressed through their elected state representatives. As much as Congress and the Authority may want it, I will not allow my workforce to be deputized by some other entity; they work for the people of New York.”

If that were all there is to the Williams Doctrine, it would hardly be worthy of the name.  Rob Williams is not a political grandstander pontificating about states' rights; nor is he a petulant child like his counterparts in Texas and elsewhere.

There is a second part to the doctrine that is just as important as the first.  Williams recognizes that he is charged with regulating and serving the horsemen and all parts of the racing industry in New York. He knows he cannot do that by getting into a political food fight with the Authority.  So, the second part of the doctrine, as articulated by Williams, states that while New York cannot allow its unionized workforce to be deputized into federal service, it will make New York's regulatory talent and expertise available where appropriate.  Although Lisa Lazarus would clearly like to have New York simply sign up, she praised Williams for his cooperation.

Rob Williams is protecting the horse racing industry by helping the feds get it right all while refusing to yield the sovereignty of the state.  That is why he has served with or for six governors. Good on him.

– Patrick Brown, Albany, N.Y. Organizer of the Racing and Gaming Conference at Saratoga and a New York horseman.

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