Frankfort, KY–Many folks believe that state legislators only work during the months we are called into session in January, but the reality is we work all year long.
In fact, our House and Senate Committees join together when we are not in session and conduct meetings in Frankfort and travel to various locations across the state to hear reports from organizations and businesses that fall under our committees’ jurisdiction. In June, several interim committees met in Northern Kentucky.
Since I serve as chair of the House Licensing and Occupations Committee I feel it is imperative that I familiarize myself with their policies, plans, and facilities to better understand how the laws we pass affect their scope of operation and activities.
The horse racing industry is one of Kentucky’s signature industries and one that my committee regulates.
A January 2013 statewide survey of the industry conducted by the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture estimated the value of 242,000 horses and equine related assets at more than $20 billion. There are many institutions involved in this multi-billion dollar enterprise that include horses, jockeys, racetracks, wagering and horse parks.
Recently I attended the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund Advisory Committee (KTDF) meeting. KTDF operates within the Kentucky Racing Commission and oversees the allotment of funds received through an excise tax imposed on all tracks conducting pari-mutuel wagering at Ellis Park in Henderson and Kentucky Downs in Franklin.
This type of wagering is also known as Instant Racing, a form of electronic gaming that has a video lottery terminal feel. Wagers are based on previously run races, or “historical races.”
I learned that between September 1, 2011 and April 30, 2013 more than $327 million was wagered through Instant Racing, and most of that goes toward improving the equine industry and conducting equine drug research. But a portion of that is allocated to Kentucky’s Higher Education Fund to support and the commonwealth’s general fund.
I chaired the Licensing and Occupations Committee meeting this month at the Kentucky Horse Park. It’s a wonderful facility that has come into national prominence since hosting the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in 2011.
John Nicholson, executive director of the Horse Park, said that they are averaging about $180 million in economic impact every year and $17 million a year is returned to General Assembly.
Mr. Nicholson talked about how important the funds are they received from the General Assembly to promote the WEG. He also said an RFP was in the process of beginning which would – through a public-private partnership – build a hotel on the Horse Park property.
The good news is our racing industry seems to be doing well, but there are challenges ahead to keep up with other states’ gaming options offered to patrons.
I will keep up with that industry and will continue to report on the status of other industries and keep you informed.