California Bill to Increase Take-Out Delayed

A bill that would raise the take-out on California exotic wagers by a half of a percentage point -- expected to reach the state's assembly floor Thursday -- has been delayed until Jan. 12.

Assembly Bill 900 by Jerome Horton (D-Inglewood) is designed to raise about $10 million to help California horsemen offset the cost of workers' compensation insurance.

Eric Johnson, a legislative analyst for racing issues, said the delay was to allow the assembly to select a new speaker for the coming year. Fabian Nunez, a freshman Democrat from Los Angeles, is expected to succeed outgoing speaker Herb Wesson.

The Horton bill increases the take-out on exotic bets (in California, all wagers except win, place or show) from 20.18% to 20.68% in Thoroughbred races and from 20.38% to 20.88% in Quarter Horse races. The Standardbred races would increase conventional take-out from 16.43% to 17.43%.

The measure passed the state senate by a 31-4 vote in September. Racing officials expect it to receive an easy approval. It would then go to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who would have 30 days to sign it.

Officials feel the bill will significantly drop workers' compensation insurance rates that are paid by owners and trainers. Horsemen, who currently pay $35 to $65 per $100 of payroll and $105 to $173 per jockey ride, could see their rates drop to $20 per $100 of payroll and $50 per mount.

Johnson wonders if that will be enough.

"The day of judgement is coming," he said of the racing industry in
California. "The issue that must be is addressed is the lack of horse owners ... This bill should help out with workers' comp, but it doesn't do anything about the four- and five-horse fields. Declining ownership is a problem that was here long before the workers' compensation issue."