KY Survey Unlikely to Impact Gaming Issue

State Sen. Damon Thayer says industry report can be used to affect other policy.

A survey released Sept. 6 showing the Kentucky horse industry had an estimated economic impact of nearly $3 billion in 2012 is unlikely to impact the issue of whether alternative gaming should be approved by the state legislature, according to a top-ranking state senator.

"I doubt if it's going to affect the gaming issue much at all, but I do think it will help with other issues, particularly related to tax policy," said Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer. "There is a growing sentiment within the horse industry that it needs to be more than just about expanded gambling. There are other policies that could be helpful to the industry. Sometimes you settle for a base hit rather than a home run."

The "2012 Kentucky Equine Survey," which cost $600,000 to complete, concluded there are an estimated 40,665 jobs related to the state's equine industry that includes all breeds of horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules.

Supporters of the unsuccessful effort to legalize alternative gaming at Kentucky racetracks cite an erosion in the state's signature industry primarily due to competition from racing in nearby states that are able to enhance purses as a result of casino-style gaming at the tracks.

A 2005 national study by Deloitte Consulting and commissioned by the American Horse Council estimated an equine industry economic impact in Kentucky of nearly $4 billion, with about 96,000 jobs.

"I plan to use it to continue to do what I've done for last 10 1/2 years, and that is make the case that lawmakers ought to consider policies that allow the horse industry to thrive and to compete," Thayer said.

"I think it is a great snapshot of where the industry is now and what it should tell policymakers is that there are horses in every county, in every legislative district, and the people involved with those horses are playing a leading role in the economy of every county. Horses are good for our economy. They are good for tourism. They are good for preserving green space. They're an important part of our worldwide appeal and are Kentucky's brand."

Patrick Neely, a spokesman for the Kentucky Equine Education Project that has had a presence in all 120 Kentucky counties, agreed that the survey results could be useful in trying to achieve favorable legislation for the horse industry.

"This study demonstrates that the horse industry is still important to the state of Kentucky, but I do hope it serves as a wake up call to policy makers to see how much we have lost in the last eight years and they are spurred to do something to prevent further erosion of jobs," Neely said.

"I think it is what we have been talking about for the last eight years and that is that our competitor states are using increased purses and increased breeders' incentives to take our breeding operations and to ultimately take our jobs. We are the only major equine state in which we pay a sales tax on feed and equipment. That is another competitive issue."