Wichita The state's top racing official says horse and dog tracks are facing tough times.
"The best word to describe the state of that industry is 'grim,"' Stephen Martino, executive director of the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, told the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee this week.
In his annual report delivered Wednesday, Martino said total betting fell to $85 million in 2005, the latest statistics available for a complete year, The Wichita Eagle reported. That's down from a high of $273 million in 1990, the first year of pari-mutuel betting in Kansas.
The trend continued in 2006, but Martino didn't have complete figures.
One savior for the industry may be slot machines at the race tracks, something supporters have sought repeatedly but haven't been able to get through the Legislature.
The last effort in the Senate in 2006 fell a few votes short. It would have placed slots at the tracks in Wichita, Kansas City and Frontenac, while authorizing new state-owned casinos.
Martino said the racing industry was thriving in Arkansas, Florida, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Iowa, where slot machines are allowed at the tracks.
Legislators were mixed about the chances of an expanded gambling plan passing this session, which began Monday. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has supported expanding gambling during her first four years in office, but she didn't discuss any proposals in her State of the State message or budget delivered to legislators this week.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said he hopes this will be the year that the Legislature approves slots at the tracks. He said the economic benefits go beyond betting at the track, including the breeding of the dogs themselves.
Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville, said he would vote against any gambling bill and thinks his constituents are opposed, as well.
"I think it's incumbent on the (racetrack) management to promote their businesses and do what they can to increase their revenue" Journey said.