New effort emerges on horse racing bill

A new version of high-stakes legislation targeting horse racing wagering is moving through the Capitol, with provisions that include a two-year delay in a controversial form of betting not currently allowed to California. 

The new bill is SB 1072 by Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, who hastily gutted and rewrote its provisions after an earlier version authored by Assembly Speaker John Perez was blocked. 

The Perez Bill, AB 2414, would have made three major changes to horse racing in California. The first two — an increase in the percentage of certain bets withheld to cover purses, commissions and fees, as well as a scheme to bring the prestigious Breeders’ Cup to California — were generally supported by the industry. 

But the third provision, added to AB 2414 on Aug. 20 in a gut-and-amend, has split the industry. That provision would authorize so-called “exchange wagering,” complex bets that would allow wagers on factors such as where a particular non-winning horse will place. The original bill got stuck in the Senate Rules Committee last week.

The newer bill would allow exchange wagering, but not until May 1, 2012, a delay that was not contained in AB 2414’s language. On the final day of the legislative session, the new bill has become the focus of Calderon’s efforts. 

The exchange wagering concept is being pushed by a coalition of groups, including Betfair, a British betting technology company that has been heavily involved in enabling tracks to offer exchange wagering. They’re joined by the Thoroughbred Owners Association, the prominent Hollywood Park race track and the Jockeys’ Guild.

The effort against exchange wagering is being led by Magna Entertainment, owner of the popular Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields horse tracks. They’re joined by Churchill Downs, the famed home of the Kentucky Derby. 

To see Capitol Weekly’s earlier story on exchange wagering, click here.

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