The Kansas legislature has advanced a bill that would eliminate any chances of bringing live horse and greyhound racing back to the state, at least until the year 2032. What some consider to be a deal made behind closed doors, it appears to have strong influence from some of the state’s highest ranking officials. In 2007, the operators of the five existing parimutual facilities joined forces with the horse and greyhound racing groups of Kansas, along with prospective destination casino developers, to pass the Expanded Lottery Act. This act allows for state-owned and operated casinos as well as the ability for slot machines to be operated at three of the parimutual racetracks in the state, all under the supervision of the state’s lottery. The promise of 3,000 new jobs from the raising and racing of the animals along with millions of dollars going to the state’s agricultural economy were part of the driving force for its passage.
However, none of the racetracks ever reached an agreement with the state to operate the machines, citing too high of a state tax to allow for return on the investment needed. The act requires 40 percent of the revenue from the machines at racetracks go to the state while the so-called destination casinos pay only 22 percent. During a regularly scheduled meeting of the senate federal and state affairs recently, legislators recommended passing out a substitute bill for House Bill 2055, a bill that dealt with the carrying of concealed weapons. Amended into HB 2055 was language that, if passed, will drop the minimum financial investment in a state owned casino in southeast Kansas, but more alarming, strip all language from the 2007 Expanded Lottery Act that would allow slot machines at racetracks with no chance of ever changing until the year 2032. The full senate is expected to consider the substitute bill sometime soon. If passed by the senate, the bill would then return to the house for an up or down vote on this new language, pending a nod from the house speaker that the bill was not “materially altered.” This type of strategy is often used to get controversial issues passed thru the legislative process without the proper discussion and consideration by our lawmakers. Often, legislators are coerced into silence on a particular issue they normally would oppose in exchange for favorable consideration by government leadership for something that a legislator deems important to his or her constituents. Many champion runners have come from Kansas, which was once ranked in the top ten in production of thoroughbreds and in the top five of quarter horses headed for the racetrack in the nation. Abilene, Kansas is home to the National Greyhound Association and is considered the breeding central of top greyhound runners across the country. “It’s such a shame that our elected officials would turn their back on an industry that has had such deep roots in our state over the past 100 years” says Rita Osborn, president of the Kansas Quarter Horse Racing Association.
Page 2 of 2 - Eureka Downs ran its first horse race in 1872, making it one of the oldest tracks in the country.
“Telling a business that contributes over $200 million annually to our state’s economy, not to mention the jobs and social benefits racing has brought to Kansas, that we no longer want them just doesn’t seem right. I don’t think the legislators are representing what the public truly wants in this case” she adds.
Cameron Roth is president of the Kansas Thoroughbred Association. He thinks the legislature is making a mistake.
"The destination casinos in Mulvane, Dodge City and Kansas City, Kansas have slowed the amount of Kansas gambling dollars from going to neighboring states which is obviously a wonderful thing. But for legislators to not allow the racetracks to operate slot machines causes great concern. If the legislators would look at information that has been provided to them time and time again, they would see that states such as Iowa and Oklahoma who have a healthy horse industry, the jobs and tax revenue created far outweigh that of a destination casino. And the beauty of a healthy horse industry is it supports agri-business all over the state, not just in certain gaming zones. I think it's clear that any legislator who supports this Bill in it's current form is turning their back on the Kansas Ag producer and is against giving a tax cut to Kansas business. The racetracks aren't asking for a grant, just a level tax rate. Legislators need to amend the racing language back into the Bill or oppose it."
- Rita Osborn, Kansas Quarter Horse Racing Association President