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Governor's Task Force progress

March 20, 2006     E-mail this page to a friend!

Topperís Comments

Last November Tom Tucker and I hosted a meeting for anyone interested in helping horse racing solve some of the industry problems. The meeting was held December 2, the day before the date hearing for the Montana Board of Horse Racing. After much positive discussion about what could be done and what needs to be done, the consensus seemed to be that a committee should be formed to develop a plan.

This plan would then be presented to the Governorís office in an effort to gain their approval and support. We asked for names and volunteers to be on the committee. A lot of people called and sent e-mails offering support, but no one offered to be on the planning committee.

Around the first of the year, with no planning committee in place, it didnít look like anything was getting done.

Al Carruthers called and suggested that we contact the Governorís office to see if they were willing to help. Al and I met with Evan Barrett, Chief Business Development Officer, from the Office of the Governor. After a brief discussion, he told us that the Governor was interested in helping the horse racing industry and asked if we would consider having the Governor appoint a task force to study the industry and come up with a plan to improve it. Al and I agreed. Mr. Barrett then explained to us that he would meet with the Governor to get his approval and then make an announcement prior to selecting a committee.

At this point I felt that until the Governor approved the plan and announced the task force, it would be presumptuous for me to make any announcements prior to the Governorís decision.

The Governor has now approved the Task Force, and Mr. Barrett called and told me that Patty Keebler would be the point person from his office to get things together.

Mr. Barrett, Patty Keebler and the Governor have been most encouraging and supportive of the effort to develop a plan to improve the horse racing industry in Montana. Today they sent a letter to every track manager and to The Racing Journal informing them of their action and requesting them to send names of possible members to work on this Task Force. (See the complete letter on The Racing Journal website.)

Personally, I am very pleased with this approach to solving the industry problems. If the horse racing industry would have appointed a committee and then formed a plan to take to the Governor, it may or may not have been approved. However, if we start with a plan developed in conjunction with the Governorís office, we will have already crossed one major hurdle.

I think by starting right now, we have time to work on the problems facing this industry, form a workable plan both long and short range that will help the industry grow, and if needed, time to get legislation approved in the next session.

In order for any plan to work it will require the full support and unity of the industry. Without unity we will not be able to succeed. Remember, ďNo part is greater than the whole.Ē

If we can come together in support of a single plan, we can improve the industry.

If you have ideas and suggestions, bring them to the committee. If you disagree, bring your concerns to the committee and they will be helpful, but if you disagree and gather support for your concerns outside of the committee, it will not help.

The horse racing industry is on the brink of collapsing. There are very few stallions standing in Montana to outside mares, there are very few mares foaling in Montana, and there are very few sales in Montana. It is hard to find a Montana-bred racing in other states because there are so few Montana bred horses. The tracks that are running are running fewer dates. The cost to tracks to conduct racing is increasing with higher insurance costs, higher maintenance and fewer horses to fill races.

Simulcast has helped but it is not enough. SB65 money seems to have been a short term solution to the bigger problem of keeping this industry healthy in Montana.

If we donít do something now, it will be too late. We need to try and work together in order to have any hope of success.

Thank you Governor Schweitzer, Evan Barrett and Patty Keebler for taking an interest in the horse racing industry and helping to develop a plan to make this industry once again an economic contributor in the state of Montana.