Lawmakers take another run at horse racing bill

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Lawmakers are making another run at attracting more horse racing to Missouri.

A bill heard by a Senate panel Monday would allow year-round simulcasting at tracks, allowing bettors to wager on races at other tracks that are shown on TV screens.

Last year, a similar bill passed the House but failed in the Senate in the final moments of the session.

Missouri voters approved wagering on horse racing in 1984, but that law allows simulcasting only on the same number of days as tracks hold live races.

And no track has been able to survive in Missouri.

The legislation before the Senate Financial and Governmental Organization Committee would require those seeking to hold horse racing to make a minimum $25 million investment in a track and would require 50 days of live racing in the first 30 months of operation. After that, tracks would have to hold at least 50 days of live races each year.

Sponsored by Sen. Betty Sims, R-Ladue, the bill also would dedicate $2 from each entry fee to the state's school building fund.

'Development bill'

"This is an economic development bill," Sims told the committee. "It is an opportunity to hire a lot of people, and it does generate money."

The bill does not allow simulcasting outside of the racetrack area and is designed to prevent other kinds of gambling from taking place -- two provisions that opponents of the legislation have used in the past against the legislation.

Louis Cella, an official with the Oaklawn Jockey Club in Hot Springs, Ark., said the bill improves the current law without costing the state a penny.

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