Mixed reaction to Kentucky tax on horse race betting

Mar 29, 2010 5:03 PM

Kentucky supporters of a bill that will place a 1.5 percent tax on telephone and online horse race bets say the money will go a long way toward boosting the purse schedule at the state’s racetracks.

But, say opponents, it will have a devastating effect on publicly-traded Churchill Downs Inc. (CHDN).

The parent company of the Louisville home of the Kentucky Derby operates a major advance deposit wagering system that would be hard hit with the implementation of a tax on wagering.

Sen. Damon Thayer, who has a history of racetrack employment, said the bill, that has passed the state Senate, is "an all-Kentucky bill" that will boost live racing by increasing purses.

Thayer had sponsored a bill that would have permitted the state’s tracks to operate Instant Racing electronic games, sort of a distant cousin to slot machines. The idea apparently went no further than his proposal.

Supporters of the measure in the Senate didn’t know how much money the tax would generate, but noted that advance deposit wagering is the fastest growing segment of wagering on horse races. Republicans dominate the Senate and passed the bill on a party line vote of 21-17.

The Democrats are the majority in the House and reportedly are strongly opposed to the bill’s passage.