To the Members of the California Legislature:
I am signing Assembly Bill 471, legislation that provides significant new protections for racetrack "backstretch" employees including standards for living conditions and the right to organize for collective bargaining purposes. The bill also authorizes the California Horse Racing Board to accept advance deposit wagering on horse races.
I vetoed similar legislation last year for two main reasons: first, federal law did not expressly permit the use of a telephone or the Internet to place wages on horse races, thus, authorizing it in California would have represented a significant expansion of gambling beyond federal law; and second, the potential abuse by minors in using the Internet to place wagers.
Two things have changed since I last considered this issue. First, the federal Interstate Horseracing Act was amended in December 2000, after I vetoed the previous version of this bill. Those amendments expanded the definition of an "interstate off-track wager" to include wagering via the Internet (15 U.S.C. 3002(3)). The importance of this change in federal law, according to the California Attorney General, is to "legitimize telephone and Internet off-track wagering in states where it is either specifically authorized or not forbidden."
Therefore, the Attorney General has opined that "because AB 471 will not create a new form or expand an existing form of gambling, it is not an expansion of gambling." Second, in contrast to last year's measure, this bill includes safeguards specifically designed to prohibit the use of advance deposit wagering accounts by minors and other unauthorized persons, such as requiring any payments be made by check only to the account holder.
As I stated last year, I support the provisions in this bill that provide significant new protections for backstretch workers, including badly needed standards for living conditions, establishment of a health and welfare fund and the right to organize for collective bargaining purposes.
This measure, as amended, will protect low-paid racetrack workers from abusive conditions, and will help to maintain the vitality and competitiveness of one of California's premier sporting industries, thoroughbred horseracing.