09/09/2003 11:00PM

Calif. takeout bill advances


The California State Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that would raise the takeout on exotic wagers in California by 0.5 percent in an effort to offset workers' compensation costs to trainers.

Assembly Bill 900, sponsored by Jerome Horton (D-Inglewood), was expected to reach a vote in the State Assembly on Thursday. If approved, the measure would be sent to Gov. Gray Davis. There is urgency to the bill because the California Legislature adjourns for the year on Friday.

The Senate approved the measure 31-3, and state racing executives do not expect opposition in the Assembly.

"We're still optimistic that it will pass," said Jack Liebau, president of the three California tracks owned by Magna Entertainment - Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields, and Santa Anita. "I think the bill is necessary to the survival of racing in California as we know it.

"We are losing horses to other states," Liebau said, "and that problem is being compounded by revenue in other states such as slot machines. It's hard to encourage people to come to California because of the current cost structure. Workers' compensation is the biggest problem."

The bill would raise the takeout on all bets other than win, place, and show from 20.18 to 20.68 percent.

The program is designed to raise $10 million for insurance premiums. If that amount of revenue is reached, average insurance rates paid by trainers would drop to $20 per $100 of payroll and $50 per jockey's mount. Trainers currently pay $35 to $65 on payroll and $105 to $173 per jockey's mount.