The $18 billion state budget that passed through the Senate Friday includes a provision that could lead to relief for embattled Inland Northwest thoroughbred horse trainers and owners.
The provision attaches conditions and limitations to the appropriation that funds the Washington State Horse Racing Commission.
The commission’s appropriation of $4.73 million can’t be spent unless the commission gives each of the state’s three major racing associations a minimum season of 60 days with statewide off-track betting.
Only Playfair Race Course in Spokane has fewer than 60 days in 1995.
The bottom line, said State Sen. Jim West, R-Spokane, is: “Unless they give all three major licensed associations 60 days they get no dough.”
The budget is headed for conference committees.
The provision “doesn’t impact the new track at Auburn or the state’s other two racing associations (Western Washington-based Emerald Racing Association and Apple Tree of Yakima),” said West, ranking minority member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
“It does impact the racing commission. The commission has the ability to make the decisions.” The action horsemen here want is approval for
August racing dates in Spokane, with statewide simulcast wagering. They want three days a week in August, with two going to the state’s off-track sites.
On the books now is a 50-day season in Spokane from Sept. 6-Nov. 27.
“This is a straight shot at the commission to resolve it (Spokane’s shortened season) and resolve it now, before the end of the (legislative) session,” West said.
The move was good news to local horse people, who held a contentious meeting Friday with Carl Baze, president of their collective bargaining unit, the Washington Division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.
Local horse people are considering pulling out of the state HBPA and forming their own association.