NTRA Funding Bill on the Table in California

The California Senate is considering legislation that would extend by four years provisions that allow for payment of purse funds to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. The law, which sunsets Jan. 1, 2004, generates about $1.8 million for the NTRA each year through horsemen's contributions.

The bill sponsored by Assemblyman Mark Wyland was introduced in February, passed the Assembly in May, and cleared the Senate Committee on Governmental Organization June 11. As of June 12, it was on the Senate's "consent calendar."

The bill would delay repeal of the requirement that "any association, including a fair, that conducts Thoroughbred racing must pay to the owners' organization contracting with the association an additional percentage for a national marketing program, as specified, to promote Thoroughbred racing unless the owners' organization chooses not to contribute to the program."

The legislation now under consideration calls for associations to pay the Thoroughbred Owners of California 1.75% for NTRA programs through Jan. 1, 2008.

The TOC has long supported the NTRA, and in fact has a spot on the organization's board of directors. TOC president John Van de Kamp currently fills the position.

The California Horse Racing Board's Pari-Mutuel Committee discussed the matter in early June. CHRB chairman Alan Landsburg, a member of the committee, has indicated California racing isn't getting its money's worth from the NTRA expenditure. Between the TOC and racetracks, the NTRA derives about $3.6 million in annual dues from California.

"We've been in touch the last couple of months with every segment of the California horse racing industry, including the CHRB," said Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of marketing and industry relations for the NTRA. "Over the next month or next month and a half, we plan to coordinate meetings to address any concerns the CHRB might have."

Chamblin said plans were already in place to work on specific marketing plans for California in the lead up to the 2004 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Santa Anita Park.

"We've communicated with the entire CHRB, including the chairman in writing, and look forward to following up if we think it's necessary," Chamblin said. "Regardless, we plan on having meetings in California and putting together marketing plans."

The NTRA's budget for 2002 includes $18.4 million (30.9% of the total) from membership dues. Thus, California contributes about 19% to that budget line item.

As a state agency of governor-appointed members, the CHRB, should it choose to take a position, could determine whether Gov. Gray Davis signs the legislation if it passes the Senate.