02/26/2009 12:00AM

Harris voted California chairman


John Harris, a prominent Thoroughbred breeder, was appointed chairman of the California Horse Racing Board at the panel's monthly meeting on Thursday, outpolling newly appointed commissioner David Israel.

Harris, the owner of Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif., has served as racing board chairman in the past. He resumed that role on an interim basis in December, following the abrupt resignation of Richard Shapiro.

The vote was taken secretly among the six commissioners present. Before the vote was taken, Israel made a motion to postpone the vote until all seven commissioners were present. The motion was not successful.

Earlier at the meeting, the racing board abolished a rule that banned racetracks from providing customers with rebates of bets. Despite the presence of the rule, the prohibition of rebates was never fully enforced, officials said at Thursday's meeting.

Some account wagering providers operating in California provide rebates to customers.

Jack Liebau, the president of Hollywood Park and a director of the account wagering service Youbet.com, argued for the rule to be repealed.

"Rebates are here and everyone is doing it," he said. "I don't think that it makes any sense for the CHRB to take any action that would discourage people to wager on California races."

As part of the rule-changing process, the abolishment of the rule must be available for public comment for 45 days before it returns to the board for a final vote.