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Missouri's missing out

Horse racing industry could have big impact on state economy, bring enjoyment to sport’s fans
Saturday, May 5, 2007 | 1:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:22 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You can tag your allegiance to any of the nearly two-dozen horses that will be thundering toward the finish line in today’s Kentucky Derby. It doesn’t matter which one you pick.

Maybe it’s early favorite Curlin that strikes your fancy, or maybe you’ll shout at your TV set in hopes that Imawildandcrazyguy wins, based solely on your love for “Saturday Night Live,” of course.

Yes, you can scream and squirm all you want, but it will all have to be just for fun. Because if you’re planning on making any money off one of these horses, you’re in the wrong state.

That’s right, though pari-mutuel horse betting is legal in Missouri, you’ll be out of luck trying to find somewhere to legally throw down some cash on Street Sense or Stormello.

In order to bet on a simulcast race, Missouri law states that a live race must be conducted at the track on that same day. Problem is, there are no horse tracks in Missouri.

In a state where gambling has invaded riverboats, American Indian reservations and convenience stores, it’s about time Missouri joins the 32 other states with horse tracks.

I mean, how would you rather spend your $5? You could scratch away at a piece of cardboard in hopes that you’ll reveal three horseshoes in a row or you could bet on one of a number of massive animals blazing around an oval at 45 mph. It’s up to you.

The construction of a track would be a symbiotic relationship between lovers of horse racing (you and me) and lovers of money (the state of Missouri).

Those who are interested in the sport will be able to watch live races for probably 40 to 60 days each year, and when there is not a live race to be seen, they could bet on a simulcast race from anywhere in the world.

That’s if state House Bill 1679 passes, of course. The bill would remove the limit on the number of days in which a bettor can wager on a horse race in Missouri.

Many consider its passage to be a key hurdle in the race to build a full-time horse track.

The bill has been patiently lingering on the informal calendar since 2002, which doesn’t make much sense since Missouri likely wouldn’t mind the extra cash that could come from horse racing.

According to the Missouri Gaming Commission, the state brings in about $1.6 billion each year from its 11 riverboat casinos across the state. That statewide gaming revenue has increased in each of the past seven fiscal years.

But there’s still a financial market to be tapped in the slightly thinning but still-sturdy world of horse racing.

Kansas gets $103 million a year from its horse racing industry, and the state provides jobs for more than 1,300 full-time employees to keep it running.

Our western neighbors have three full-time tracks and the thrill of live action brought fans and money to the tracks for 55 live race days last year.

Live races bring in more revenue for Kansas than simulcast races, but people do go to the tracks to bet on horses on non-race days as well. Having to visit a casino or Web site to place horse wagers is like buying your milk at a gas station — it’s convenient, but you miss out on the full experience.

Just ask Gov. Matt Blunt, who has proven that he’s a fan of horse racing. Blunt will be sitting on the Millionaire’s Row today at the Derby, a spot with a mint julep in every cupholder reserved for those who can shell out the $25,000 donation required for the seats.

So if the governor is a representative of the state and he likes seeing the sinewy steeds galloping in front of him, there’s a good chance all of Missouri would, too.

And don’t try to make the argument that Missouri is not a horse state, because thoroughbreds from the Show-Me State are competitive in horse races nationwide year after year, even though a Missouri-bred horse hasn’t won the Derby since Elwood in 1904.

So if you plan on turning your psychic premonitions about today’s race into some cold cash, you better hop in your car and make a run for the border.

Otherwise, it’s time to contact your congressional representative and demand the chance to throw away your hard-earned paycheck on an animal named Nobiz Like Shobiz. That’s your right as an American.

Horse racing for the state of Missouri?

You bet.


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Comments

Randy McDaniel July 18, 2010 | 4:12 p.m.

Seems like Missouri is a really backwards state. It is high time that we are allowed to participate in horse race betting. There are many great sites on the internet where one could do this. If one is a student of horse racing it can be a highly profitable and very fun past time. Please pass a law to make this possible. This could provide hours of enjoyment for many. Thank you, Randy

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