|Tim Talley of the Associated Press reports that this state’s national reputation for champion breeding horses is, along with horse racing itself, an industry at risk due to new state gambling regulations that prohibit the kind of gambling done at tribal casinos to be done on race tracks, horse breeders complain. |
“Horse breeding and racing is the state's third largest industry, behind agriculture and oil and gas, employing 57,000 people and accounting for an estimated $3 billion in economic activity each year,” Talley writes. But Dee Raper, owner of Belle Mere, one of the largest quarter horse farms in the United States, says that tribal casino gambling games are “taking the gaming dollar away from the racetrack. It's taken a lot of the money out of our business.”
Raper and other horse breeders want state lawmakers to pass legislation giving them parity -- the same opportunity to feature at tracks the same gambling games that are offered at the popular tribal casinos. “That's all we ask for,” Raper said. “We've had a lot of promises. But those promises haven't been fulfilled.” Without that parity, the breeders may have to move their operations to states such as Louisiana and New Mexico, where these other forms of gaming are permitted at tracks.
The Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association may circulate a petition asking state voters to support the parity. Association director, Debbie Schauf, said, “The only way the money flows to the horse industry is from the racetrack.”
Lawmakers reportedly said the issue would be treated as urgent when the Legislature convenes again, which will not be until next year. The breeders have the support of at least one state representative, Wayne Pettigrew, who said “If we don't pass this bill next session, then we will probably be down to one or no horse tracks in the state of Oklahoma. And Oklahoma has more horses per capita than any other state in the nation. Here we are, the horse capital of the world. And we're treating them worse than anybody.”
Tim Talley further reports that “Opposition to the measure comes from religious organizations and others who say that offering Class II bingo and pull-tab games at race tracks will further expand gambling in the state.”