California Intrigue: Racing License Tied to Homeless

In an effort to fund a winter homeless shelter at Cal Expo in Sacramento, a California lawmaker has proposed a bill that would reopen the bidding on the facility's Standardbred license.

The Sacramento Bee reported June 4 that Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg believes any additional money raised through a bidding process for the license could be used to restore funds cut by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors for the homeless shelter.

Cal Expo hosts harness racing from late September through late July, while the California State Fair Thoroughbred meet is held from mid-August through Labor Day. Cal Expo assistant general manager Brian May told the Bee the facility needs upgrades, and therefore needs the revenue.

Developer Lloyd Arnold, at one time a prominent player in California harness racing and the former operator of the meet at Cal Expo when it was called Golden Bear Raceway, contends Cal Expo has closed the bidding process by renewing the contract of Capitol Racing 1997. The Bee said another person has filed a similar suit.

Arnold's attorney, Rodney Blonien, told the newspaper his client is willing to bid $2.2 million a year more than Capitol Racing pays to run the operation. Cal Expo collected $1.5 million from Capitol Racing in 2002.

The Capitol Racing meet in Sacramento began years ago to plug gaps in the state's harness schedule. Thanks in large part to simulcasting, it has become a 10-month season that keeps horsemen in the state year-round. Total handle now averages almost $1 million a night.

The Bee said Capitol Racing is attempting to keep its contract until 2005. The company's current contract expires July 26 at the end of the current meet.