Horsemen and state legislators estimate that California is losing $30 million a year that normally would be deducted from those bets -- pegged to be worth as much as $1 billion -- for taxes, purses, and other uses. By allowing the state to regulate account wagering, that money would stay in the state.Account wagering is only part of the bill's three-pronged reforms. It also calls for improved housing and living conditions for the state's 3,500 grooms and other workers who live on track. In addition, backstretch workers would be allowed to unionize and to participate in collective bargaining.Davis had vetoed a very similar bill last year, calling it an expansion of gambling. An opinion by state attorney general Bill Lockyer helped change his mind. Just a month ago, Davis reportedly was still leaning against the bill, sponsored by assembly members Robert Hertzberg, Herb Wesson, Mike Briggs, and Dion Aroner, plus state senators John Burton and Ed Vincent.
The often fractious California racing industry came together behind the bill and lobbied hard for its approval. That included hiring Darius Anderson, a former Davis fund-raiser and organizer of the governor's inauguration committee, to lobby on racing's behalf."This shows the necessity of the entire racing community working closely together," said Wes Fitzpatrick, president of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association. "This is legislation that can have a profound impact on many areas of our business."In addition, Davis recently approved legislation that exempts breeding stock from state sale and use taxes. "All these things help," said racing lobbyist Robert Fox. "The racing industry has had as good a year as we could possibly hope."Proposed CHRB policies for account wagering, plus backstretch labor and housing reforms, should get their first public hearings in early fall. "Any new regulations would likely go to (CHRB) committee in September," Marten said. "The approval of the bill sets everything in motion so we can get cracking on it."