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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Kansas racing on its last leg

Dog, horse tracks nationwide struggle without other gambling

February 4, 2007

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— When Kansas voters approved wagering on horse and dog tracks in 1986, they were told it would be a big moneymaker for the state economy.

Twenty years later, the amount of money bet on races has fallen to the point that the tracks don't even generate enough in wagering taxes to cover the cost of the state to regulate them.

"Things have completely flipped in Kansas," said Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission executive director Stephen Martino.

The Racing and Gaming Commission's budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, is projected to be approximately $1 million short, which will require some kind of bailout.

In 1990 in Kansas, the handle - the amount wagered - was $273.4 million. Since then the handle has plummeted, setting record lows year after year to $79.7 million last year.

"It's a grim situation," Martino said.

Taxes from live and simulcast pari-mutuel wagering are expected to drop nearly 45 percent, from $2.2 million in fiscal year 2006 to $1.7 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has proposed using approximately $700,000 in Kansas Lottery funds that normally go to economic development projects to help make up the agency's shortfall.

Slots needed?

Martino said it is part of a national trend. "Tracks that have additional gaming, such as slots, do well, and those that don't are doing poorly," he said.

But attempts to allow casino-style games at the state's two major tracks - The Woodlands in Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita Greyhound Park - have repeatedly failed in the Kansas Legislature.

Despite talk in the Legislature again this year to revive efforts to put slots at the tracks, Glenn Thompson, executive director of the anti-gambling group Stand Up for Kansas, predicted no change.

"There's just as much opposition to casinos this year as there has ever been," he said.

Gambling competition

Jim Gartland, a spokesman for The Woodlands, said riverboat casinos right across the river in Missouri, Indian casinos in northeast Kansas and the Kansas Lottery have taken a huge bite out of the gambling dollar.

"In this day and age of instant gratification, doing mindless gambling is easier than studying a racing program," Gartland said.

The lottery is expected to pump $67 million into the state budget this year, and lawmakers appear ready to drop a requirement that the lottery be reauthorized every five years.

Gartland said if the Legislature approved slots at the tracks it would help.

"We are kind of surrounded by casinos," he said.

The Legislature considered a bill last year that would have allowed state-run, resort-type casinos in Kansas City, Kan., and southeast Kansas and also 5,000 slot machines at pari-mutuel race tracks.

That bill, which failed in the Senate, would have raised about $150 million a year for the state, according to its supporters.

Gartland declined to speculate on how long the tracks can go on. In 2000, a track in Frontenac shut down.

But Thompson said the tracks have for years said they may go under, but they continue on.

Accompanying the decrease in wagering, fewer people also are visiting the tracks.

Attendance at The Woodlands fell from 361,611 in 2004 to 328,109 in 2005, according to the Racing Commission's last annual report. And Wichita Greyhound's attendance dropped from 172,209 in 2004 to 157,644 in 2005, the report said.

Comments

warthog 7 years, 5 months ago

The Woodlands is still open?

Why not use the money that Queen Sebelius wants to take from the lottery and use it for repairs to the state's colleges, rather than impose higher tolls on turnpike users?

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KS 7 years, 5 months ago

First -Instead of using lottery money for "economic development", whatever that is, let's use that money for education and repairing the universitiy buildings. A never ending pool of money. I don't think I have ever seen any "economic development" from the lottery. Maybe there has been some, but it certainly is not publicized enough.

Second - If there is not enough money coming in to pay for the cost of the the Racing Commission, maybe that commission should reduce its staff and stop spending so much.

Third - I am not a gambler in the form of going to casinos, etc. I understand why people do. I am not in favor of opening up gambling in the state due to the social problems associated with it, however...........

Fourth - Since the State of Kansas allowed private money to be invested in this state for pari-mutual gaming, the State of Kansas should recognize that times have changed and they need to stand behind their original decision of gaming and help the tracks where possible. Yes, that would mean expanded gaming, but I would suggest that it be done ONLY at those track ocations. The state has betrayed those investments.

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Jeff Barclay 7 years, 5 months ago

This entire problem demonstrates the absolute insanity of the gaming industry. I appeal to legislators to get us out of this nuthouse. A bail-out is absurd!

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oldgoof 7 years, 5 months ago

Oldgoof thought this was all stupid when it started. He wishes he kept his writings to prove it. He noticed this quote: ""In this day and age of instant gratification, doing mindless gambling is easier than studying a racing program," Gartland said. . Goof predicts that someday the gambling industry will find a way to invade the X-Box 360/Nintiendo world to find "immediate gratification."

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oldgoof 7 years, 5 months ago

. Goof notes KS at 7:33 suggests bailing out the "private money" invested in the race tracks. He wishes that KS would have at least the same respect for the "private money" invested at KU endowment, including that given for new buildings, and hopes KS will see that it is the state's responsibility to finance the upkeep on these now public buildings. . Goof thinks it is odd to place privately-owned privately-managed racetracks on a public investment list above state buildings at state universities.

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Jamesaust 7 years, 5 months ago

Dog racing is particularly immoral as it requires the breeding of large numbers of unwanted animals to find a few 'racers.' Kansas already facilitates this by statutorily defining the greyhound not as a dog but as 'livestock.' I really do wonder who these 150,000 Wichita losers are.

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roger_o_thornhill 7 years, 5 months ago

Oh my! Dire situation when people gamble less of their future away? What's wrong with this sentiment? Maybe tax prostitutes then lament "family values"?

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introversion 7 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, it doesn't sound like the gambling situation needs help, it sounds like it needs to be put down. You bail out automakers and airlines... not unethical gambling methods that have been on a steady 16 year decline in revenues.

I thank the people of Kansas for being, um, enlightened enough to realize that there isn't all that much fun in watching race-bred animals for kicks. I think it's humorous that dog racing is generally regarded as something pretentious and fancy while dog fighting is viewed as lower class and cruel. Essentially they're the same thing... Dogs fighting for their lives. Once they stop performing, they are killed or left for dead... Awesome. I think it's just what they need in KCK.

Forget the woodlands and lets fix the universities.

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budwhysir 7 years, 5 months ago

Yes, I agree give this one more chance. We should put alot more money in promoting these types of races. I think if we impose a new tax that would be used to fund a renovation of the concesion stands and seating areas, we could attract a whole new type of fan.

Also, would another location be better? Possibly in downtown Lawrence? Imagine the revenue this would bring to our downtown area. This would allow for more funds for the university. This would however take a chunk out of the toll fund that will be passed. They would only be able to collect the toll fund during our home away from home game at arrowhead

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deec 7 years, 5 months ago

It is particularly silly to put slots at the Woodlands, since full-scale casinos are just minutes away across the river.

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compmd 7 years, 5 months ago

My family has been involved with thoroughbred horse racing for years, and we've all witnessed the crowds shrink fom the tracks. There was even a proposal floated to build a riverboat casino at the infield of Arlington International Racetrack. Thankfully that was quickly shot down.

I hear you oldgoof. It is very disappointing to see that people would rather insert a coin and hope for the best rather than read times, check track conditions, race length, jockey stats, look up owners and trainers, and compare against the competition.

I'll take 15 minutes of studying and reasoning to place a $2 trifecta any day over insert quarter-lose-rinse-repeat.

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HumaneKS 7 years, 5 months ago

Introversion, thanks for saying it so well. Barbaro had to be euthanized after long suffering from his injuries and he was one of the "well-treated" ones. Many racing thoroughbreds break bones simply in the act of running because they are raced too young to have fully developed bones. Racing dogs live miserable lives confined to traveling kennels when they aren't on the track. I find it hard to believe that enthusiasts of either 'sport' are any more studious and reasoning than the run of the mill casino gambler. Propping up the racetracks with slots is simply throwing good money after bad and perpetuating an inherently cruel and thankfully dying industry.

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fletch 7 years, 5 months ago

Dog and horse racing is a relic; a trend whose time is dwindling. It's time for us to move on and stop financially bailing them out.

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