Vice President Al Gore

Vice President Al Gore

Associated Press/ Jim Cole

Gore Clarifies Position on Interstate Wagering

A spokesman for the Gore-Lieberman 2000 campaign in Kentucky issued a statement on Friday concerning Vice President Al Gore's position on interstate off-track wagering, which has been under attack from the Clinton White House's Justice Department.

"Gore is not opposed to off-track betting," said the statement from Jonathan Beeton, state press secretary for the Gore-Lieberman 2000 campaign in Kentucky. "He does not have any objections to the current off-track betting practices on horseracing, legal in a number of states, that are regulated by the Interstate Horseracing Act."

Earlier this year, the Las Vegas Review-Journal quoted another spokesman for the Democratic Party presidential candidate as saying Gore opposed the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, which the racing industry supports, in part because of "exemptions in the bill that would expand gambling." In the published report, the spokesman said one concern was over how the bill's exemptions would make it legal to make bets across state lines. Friday's clarifying statement from Gore's campaign recognizes the legality of off-track wagering and the federal legislation passed in 1978 regulating interstate wagering.

The statement came in response to a question from The Blood-Horse on whether the vice president has legal objections to current interstate wagering practices. Kevin DiGregory, a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, has testified before Congress in opposition to the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act. DiGregory has stated the department's belief that current interstate simulcasting -- which accounts for the vast majority of pari-mutuel handle in the Thoroughbred racing industry -- may be illegal, based on the federal Wire Act of 1961. He believes the proposed legislation -- which passed the Senate last November but is in jeopardy of being overlooked by the House before adjournment next month--expands wagering. Supporters of the bill contend it recognizes practices that have existed for a number of years, including legal account wagering approved and regulated in 10 states and interstate simulcasting. Top officials with the American Horse Council and National Thoroughbred Racing Association were encouraged by the Gore statement.

"We are pleased with this clarification of the vice president's position," said Tim Smith, commissioner of the NTRA. "The economics of horseracing and breeding depend on retaining the right to engage in interstate simulcasting and account wagering, so long as legal under state law and done in compliance with the Interstate Horseracing Act."

Said AHC president Jay Hickey: "In light of previous statements, it's great that Vice President Gore has clarified his position and recognized the importance of this industry. Whenever you have a comment from a presidential contender that is favorable to our industry, it's a plus."