Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has vetoed a provision in the state General Assembly’s $19-billion budget that would keep smaller racetracks in the state from paying a daily assessment to support Kentucky Horse Racing Authority operations.
Questions remain as to whether the assessments are statutorily acceptable. Still, legislators on April 15 took no action to override the veto as the General Assembly session came to a close.
According to published reports, Beshear wants to form a task force to study long-term funding for the KHRA.
Ellis Park, Turfway Park, and The Red Mile are among the tracks that would have been spared the daily assessment, currently $3,500 a day for Thoroughbred tracks and $1,750 for harness tracks. Turfway, for instance, would have retained about $400,000 because it races the most dates, while The Red Mile would have saved about $60,000.
"Our industry is just not healthy," Joe Costa, chief executive officer of The Red Mile, said in a recent interview. "This little (budget) line item is a demonstration of the ill health by the fact the burden of funding the KHRA is on racetracks that are having trouble surviving."
Republican Sen. Damon Thayer last year floated a plan to generate $5 million to $6 million for the KHRA through a shift in the state pari-mutuel tax. He said he hopes to revisit that plan again in 2009.
The KHRA and other racing regulatory agencies in the United States are under the gun—they are expected to improve security, drug testing, and pari-mutuel oversight at a time when their budgets are being cut and the federal government is considering oversight of some areas of the horseracing industry.