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Washington Governor signs legislation to help State’s small tracks cope with jockey insurance

March 25, 2006     E-mail this page to a friend!

Washington Horse Racing Commission
March 25, Olympia, WA – Washington’s four non-profit racetracks were on the ropes, staggered by skyrocketing costs of jockey insurance that threatened their 2006 racing seasons.

But help is on the way thanks to SSB6382, one of 11 bills Governor Christine Gregoire signed into law Wednesday, March 22, in a ceremony in the Tri-Cities.

Sponsored by Senator Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla, the legislation will allow the small tracks in Kennewick, Dayton, Waitsburg and Walla Walla to operate this year.

The Blue Mountain Racing Circuit will get under way Saturday, April 8, when Sun Downs in Kennewick opens its 10-day meet.
The bill authorizes the State Horse Racing Commission to provide up to $300,000 annually to the non-profits to improve racing facilities and to fund necessary services such as jockey insurance and the jockey incentive program. Tracks must apply to the commission for the grants.

The money will come from the commission’s operating funds, and are not tax dollars from the state general fund. Executive Secretary Robert M. Leichner explained that the commission is self-supporting - funded entirely from license fees and a small percentage percent of the betting handle.

Jockey insurance will be a prime agenda item April 7 when the commission will meet in Kennewick starting at 9:30 a.m. in the Red Lion Hotel near Columbia Center.

“We are grateful to the legislature, the governor and the commission for coming to our rescue,” said Walla Walla attorney R. F. (Dick) Monahan, president of the Blue Mountain Circuit and a director of the American Quarter Horse Association.

“Without this help, we could not have run this season.”

A near tripling of premiums for jockey insurance has pushed many small tracks to the brink. Monahan said that throughout the country, industry groups are coming together to find a long-term solution to the problem.

Commission chairman Hartly Kruger of Spokane also expressed his thanks to the legislature and for the assistance that Emerald Down gives the small meets.

“We are happy, “he said, “that the non-profits will race this year and look forward to keeping them going.”

Sun Downs will run through May 7 and be followed by weekend meets in Walla Walla, May 13-14; Waitsburg May 20-21; and Dayton May 27-28. WallaWalla will also run a fair meet Sept. 1,2,3.