California racing officials are hopeful that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will sign legislation this week that would increase the takeout on exotic wagers by a half of a percentage point to help offset rising workers' compensation insurance premiums.
"My understanding is that the bill is being reviewed by the governor's staff and should be submitted to him for approval next week," said Ed Halpern, the executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, on Jan. 16. He said he was unaware of any objections to the legislation.
The bill gained unanimous consent from the California Assembly, 78-0, on Jan. 12. Assemby Bill 900 by Jerome Horton would raise an estimated $10 million to help the state's horsemen offset their insurance premiums through an increase in the takeout.
Schwarzenegger, who has made workers' compensation reform one of his administration's top goals, has 30 days from the assembly action to sign the bill.
Halpern said his membership is anxiously waiting for the measure to have an effect on insurance premiums, which should come within 30 days of getting Schwarzenegger's approval. He noted that even with the increase, California's takeout on exotic wagers – those that are not win, place or show – remain among the lowest in the nation.
The Thoroughbred percentage would increase to 20.68 from 20.18.
He said the assistance should provide a significant amount of help to beleaguered stables around the state. Horsemen, who currently pay a base rate of $35 to $65 per $100 of payroll and $105 to $173 per jockey ride, could see their rates drop to 20% of payroll and $50 per mount, according to estimates.
"I think people are happy about the idea," Halpern said. "There is some concern about how (the insurance subsidy) is going to be applied."
The measure was approved by the state Senate, 31-4, in September, but missed the deadline for assembly passage before the end of the 2003 session. It was carried over to the 2004 session.