Indiana Racing Dodges Bullet in State Budget

Indiana Racing Dodges Bullet in State Budget
Photo: Coady Photography
Indiana Downs

Indiana lawmakers have passed a two-year, $28 billion budget that largely spares the horse racing and breeding industry, which was targeted for major reductions in the amount of revenue it receives from racetrack slot machines.

There had been budget language that would have slashed industry funding by more than 50%, but a compromise resulted in total cuts of about $3 million. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels is expected to sign the bill, according to published reports.

The Indiana Legislature ended its 2011 session April 29. Republican Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Kenley was a key lawmaker in the push to maintain racing and breeding’s share of slots revenue.

Ed Martin Jr., a racing and breeding industry consultant, said the Thoroughbred sector will lose about $1.38 million overall. With 120 days of racing at two tracks—Hoosier Park Racing & Casino and Indiana Downs—purses will earn about $6,900 less per day from slots, he said.

On the breed development side, the Thoroughbred industry will receive about $4,600 less per day in supplements, Martin said.

Various industry organizations lobbied against major reductions, arguing that racetrack slots have solidified racing and breeding—Thoroughbred, Standardbred, and Quarter Horse—and pushed total annual economic impact to more than $1 billion. They said the proposed revenue reduction from $60 million a year to about $27 million would have greatly damaged that growth.

The state’s two racetracks generated cumulative income of $319 million and paid $49 million in purses in 2009, according to an economic impact study. Breeders reported total income of $31.6 million in Indiana alone; many operate in multiple states.

Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs both filed for bankruptcy protection. They said Indiana’s initial $250 million slots license fee, the highest in the United States, contributed to their financial difficulties.

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