Kentucky to Address State of Industry at Hearings

With the horse racing and breeding industries in the Bluegrass State facing several challenges, the Kentucky Racing Commission has scheduled three hearings this summer to facilitate dialogue on the issues. It's far too early, though, to determine whether the meetings will lead to, or are even designed to devise, a cohesive legislative agenda.

The Thoroughbred and Standardbred breeding industries this spring were hit by mare reproductive loss syndrome, the affects of which could be felt for years. Meanwhile, riverboat gambling in Illinois and Indiana continue to impact the pari-mutuel industry. In addition, Kentucky racetracks such as Churchill Downs have lost some of their lower to mid-level stock to racetracks in states where alternative gaming has sent purses through the roof.

Frank Jones Jr., vice chairman of the racing commission, said the commission will help organize the hearings, but the "agendas will be approved and carried out by people other than commission personnel." The hearings will be open to the public, Jones said.

Jones referred further questions to Churchill Downs, though the track wasn't directly involved in the endeavor. John Asher, the track's vice president of racing communications, said the idea for the hearings came about "from several interested parties."

"We are a signature industry in Kentucky, and we welcome any discussion," Asher said.

The economic impact the horse industry has in Kentucky is believed to be $3.5 billion.

The hearings are scheduled for July 24 in Covington, Aug. 7 in Bowling Green, and Aug. 29 in Louisville. Meeting locations and times will be announced in the near future.