Account-Bet Provisions Stripped From Arkansas Bill

Legislation that would grant Oaklawn Park a reduction in its pari-mutuel excise tax is back in the Arkansas Senate's Committee on Revenue and Tax after having failed to pass the Senate Thursday. The bill has already been amended to strike out language that would authorize Oaklawn and Southland Greyhound Park to engage in account wagering.

The amended version of Senate Bill 602 still calls for the excise tax at the Hot Springs track to be reduced from 2.5% to 1% beginning in 2002. As of Friday, the legislation hadn't been scheduled for action.

The excise tax hasn't been reduced since 1989, when it was slashed from 6%. Since that time, casinos have popped up in neighboring states, and pari-mutuel Thoroughbred racing returned to Texas. Oaklawn officials have said the competition has led to on-track declines in attendance and handle.

Wild swings in weather this winter in Arkansas have impacted those numbers during the current meet, officials said. On the plus side, Oaklawn's "Instant Racing" machines, a sort of pari-mutuel video lottery terminal that recycles old races, continues to grow. Through late February, handle through the machines had climbed 38% from the previous year.