Push to Resurrect Horseracing in Kansas Gathers Pace with Promise of Tax Cuts for Racetracks
Posted on: April 9, 2018, 04:00h.
Last updated on: April 9, 2018, 02:35h.
Despite the state’s rich historical ties to the sport, horseracing doesn’t exist in Kansas anymore. But a legislative push to bring its iconic, shuttered racetracks back from the dead is, at least, reaching a steady canter.
Kansas legalized parimutuel betting in 1986 – surprisingly late for a state that had been the home to a thriving thoroughbred and quarter horseracing industry for the best part of 100 years.
But today, breeders and owners must travel to other states to compete because their local racing facilities were throttled to death by excessive tax rates that made profitability impossible.
Famous tracks like Eureka Downs and Anthony Downs have closed in recent years; the latter has now been demolished to make way for a housing development.
But bills introduced at the beginning of the year in both chambers of the Kansas legislature – SB 427 and HB 2545 – hope to restore the state’s horseracing heritage. Both were recently passed by committee and now proceed to the floors of their respective chambers for debate.
These bills want to bring the punitive taxation rates the racetracks used to pay – some 40 percent – down to 22 percent, in line with rates currently paid by Kansas’ four state-owned casinos, as well as allowing the racetracks to offer video gaming terminals (VGTs).
At a horse owner’s workshop meeting in Emporia this week, Jonathan Small of the Greater Kansas Racing Alliance said it was time for the legislature to “right a wrong.”
“The time is now for the Kansas Legislature to level the playing field between state run casinos and privately-owned racetracks. We must push for passage of legislation to bring back horse and greyhound racing to the state of Kansas,” he said.
Flogging a Dead Horseracing Industry
Kansas authorized four casinos in four separate regions in 2008 – the first casinos in the state outside Indian reservations – which proved to be another nail in the coffin of the racing industry.
Curiously, these casinos are “state-owned” because the Kansas constitution states that private companies aren’t allowed to own gaming operations. While the casino properties are owned and operated by private companies, the state claims ownership the games – literally, laying claim to the slots, cards and dice.
The time is now for the Kansas Legislature to level the playing field between state run casinos and privately-owned racetracks,” said Small. “We must push for passage of legislation to bring back horse and greyhound racing to the state of Kansas.”
Las Vegas billionaire investor and Wichita native Phil Ruffin is a supporter of the legislative push. He owns three defunct Kansas racetracks, including Wichita Greyhound Park, which was shut down in 2007 after a failed countrywide vote to allow VGTs at the facility.
Ruffin says he is prepared to reopen the tracks under more favorable circumstances.