05/28/2003 12:00AM

Horsemen rally in Oklahoma


More than 300 horsemen based in Oklahoma rallied at the state's capitol on Tuesday in support of a bill that would allow racetracks in Oklahoma to offer the same type of Class 2 gaming available at state casinos run by Native Americans.

Horsemen see the legislation as a boon for racing in Oklahoma, which is battling the growth of gaming in neighboring states, as well as the loss of handle to Native American-run OTB's. Statewide, handle has declined almost 50 percent over the last five years, with handle on races originating in Oklahoma dropping from $122 million in 1997 to $70 million in 2001.

Attendance for live racing statewide has fallen from 632,360 in 1997 to 435,021 in 2001.

The rally was a joint effort of the Oklahoma Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association.