Does the KY Legislature Really Understand Racing?

It was a cringe moment, and not the first.

During his June 22 presentation before the Kentucky Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee, David Edmunds of the Family Foundation, in an attempt to show how bad gaming is, discussed how casino owner Louis DeNaples lost his license in Pennsylvania. Edmunds associated DeNaples with horse racing and called his operation the "Mt. Airy racetrack."

Wrong on both counts. Mt. Airy is a resort in the Pocono Mountains. DeNaples has nothing to do with racing in Pennsylvania.

Edmunds also failed to mention DeNaples lost his license temporarily. He was indicted for lying to investigators about mob ties, but the charges were dropped in April.

Earlier this year, during a hearing in the Kentucky House Licensing and Occupations Committee, The Innovation Group, working on behalf of the horse industry, gave out incorrect information pertaining to where Kentucky's tax rate on gaming fits in with other states.

In both cases, not one legislator questioned the mistakes. Not one legislator appeared to even know they were mistakes. Yet, votes were taken on public policy based on this information.

On June 22, Republican Sen. Charlie Borders, who voted against sending legislation to authorize racetrack VLTs to the Senate floor, said all 138 members of the General Assembly are committed to helping Kentucky's horse industry. The only plan he discussed is one that would increase taxes to support purses.

The Senate unanimously passed legislation to increase the pari-mutuel tax on out-of-state wagers. In effect, it would raise takeout, thus increasing the tax on bettors, a racing industry no-no. It also would put Kentucky tracks at a disadvantage in the simulcast marketplace.

Legislators probably don't know that, but they should if they are going to vote on such a plan.

I can count on two hands the number of legislators I've seen at Turfway Park in the past five years. Turfway races about 110 days a year and basically carries the year-round circuit in Kentucky. Start taking away pieces of that, and the dominoes start falling.

Maybe members of the General Assembly need to visit the place for some hands-on experience. Maybe they need to talk to horsemen and others who rely on Turfway and other tracks for year-round employment. 

It wouldn't hurt, because clearly they need an education on the issues and the facts. Maybe it's time for a legislative horse industry summit. We need to find out just how important the horse industry is to Kentucky--in both houses of its legislature.

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