|Racing industry backs casino games in Kentucky |
|Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2012 10:00 pm |
|By RANDY PATRICK |
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Racing industry spokesmen have told a House committee that Kentucky’s horse industry is in crisis and casino-style gambling at race tracks could help it.
Democratic state Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington invited the men to share their observations on Tuesday with the state House Agriculture and Small Business Committee.
Westrom said that in five years, thoroughbred racing and breeding has gone from being a $7 billion to a $4 billion industry.
Bob Feenick, an equine banker and senior vice president for PBI Bank in Lexington, said he has many customers who are struggling.
He said Kentucky is losing business to states like New York that allow casino-style gambling at tracks.
A healthy breeding environment, he said, has to be connected to a healthy racing environment, and that may benefit the state government.
“A lot of states that have needed the revenue have targeted the industry to raise that,” he said.
David England, a trainer, said some of his owners won’t race their horses in Kentucky because the purses are not competitive with states that allow slot machines at the tracks.
He has closed his training operation, laying off nine employees and affecting suppliers.
Many Kentuckians in the business, he said, are “barely hanging on” and are hoping the legislature will do something so “they can hold on for another year or two until we can give them the same playing level as other states around us.”
John Greely, a fourth-generation Kentucky horse farm owner, said his business has also declined.
In three years, he said, he has lost about 35 percent of his horses.
Kentucky has been the “horse capital of the world,” Greely said, because it has the limestone-rich bluegrass, a knowledge of horsemanship and other things that no other place has to the same extent. But he said it has not done enough to protect its signature industry.
“Other states have created more favorable conditions for thoroughbred owners and breeders to be able to survive in these tough economic times,” Greely said. “They’ve created more lucrative breeding incentives as well as purse structures.”
Published in The Messenger 1.19.12