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Kentucky Task Force Issues Report, Makes Recommendations


Published: December 15, 2008 11:37 am ET

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The Kentucky governor’s task force on the future of horse racing today completed its work, approving a final report that task force chair Tracy Farmer called, “an excellent blueprint to begin the process of once again being able to proclaim Kentucky as the horse capital of the world.”

Governor Steve Beshear formed the task force in July and charged it with making recommendations on the long-term health, integrity and competitiveness of Kentucky’s signature industry. In the ensuing months, the 12-member panel has examined issues such as the economic soundness of the equine industry, the integrity of horse racing, the staffing and budget needs of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC), and the prospects for locating a world-class equine testing laboratory in Kentucky.

The more than 60-page report includes recommendations from four subcommittees that heard testimony and gathered information from a variety of industry experts over a four-month period. Those recommendations include finding alternative sources of revenue to increase the purses offered at Kentucky’s tracks in order to make them competitive with competing states. The report notes that states such as Maryland and Pennsylvania have or will soon be dramatically increasing their purses well beyond those at Kentucky’s tracks. In both of these cases, expanded gaming in those states has provided the revenue to help make that happen.

The report also recommends increasing the staffing at the KHRC in order to address integrity issues within the sport. Under the proposal, 10 new positions would be filled including track stewards, investigators and a racing veterinarian. This would bring Kentucky more in-line with other racing states and address recommendations made by the auditor of Public Accounts, which noted in 2006 the lack of adequate funding and staffing for the KHRC.

Other recommendations include the construction of a state-owned testing lab. This, according to the report, would lead to quicker test results that have tighter controls and the potential for reduced costs and the ability to organize research activity.

Of concern to the governor in creating the task force was the perception of a lack of integrity in racing, a concern the task force spent many hours examining. As part of its report, the task force recommended filling the position of pari-mutuel wagering supervisor and much tighter oversight and reporting around the closing of wagering times while requiring all tote companies to be licensed with increased regulation and to provide tote information directly to KHRC.

“I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the task force,” governor Beshear said. “I know they worked long and hard grappling with the critical issues facing the horse industry. I look forward to studying their recommendations and developing an action plan for moving this important industry forward.”

The members of the task force were Tracy Farmer of Midway, task force chair and a thoroughbred breeder in Midway; Robert M. Beck, a Lexington attorney; Public Protection secretary Bob Vance; Nick Nicholson, president and chief executive officer of Keeneland Association; Brian Lavin, a Louisville real estate developer; Ron Geary, owner of Ellis Park; Steven Sexton, president of Churchill Downs; Dr. Robert Lawrence, University of Louisville; Joe Costa, president and CEO of Red Mile/Tattersalls; Ed Bonnie, an equine attorney in Prospect; Duncan Pitchford, an attorney in Paducah; and Ellen Hesen, general counsel for governor Beshear.

Click here to read the final report by the Kentucky governor’s task force on the future of horse racing.

(Public Protection Cabinet of the Kentucky Government)

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