07/25/2008 12:00AM

Kentucky gets new panel to study racing


Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear created a task force on Thursday to study the state's racing industry and its regulations, the governor announced.

The task force will have 12 members and be chaired by Tracy Farmer, the Thoroughbred breeder and Kentucky businessman who was a major fundraiser for Beshear during his gubernatorial campaign last year. According to the release issued by Beshear, the task force will "study the economic soundness of the industry, the effectiveness and quality of drug testing, the oversight role of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, and the adequacy of state laws and regulations."

Beshear aggressively promoted legislation this year that would have asked voters to legalize slot machines at Kentucky's racetracks. A number of bills that would have provided for a constitutional referendum to allow the machines failed to gain widespread support in the legislature this year, despite heavy lobbying by racetracks and casino interests.

The task force includes representatives of all major racetrack owners in the state, including Nick Nicholson, the chief executive of the Keeneland Association, which also owns Turfway Park; Ron Geary, the owner of Ellis Park; Steve Sexton, the president of Churchill Downs racetrack; and Joe Costa, the chief executive of the Red Mile, a harness track in Lexington.

Also on the panel are Robert Beck, a Lexington attorney who is the chair of the racing commission; Bob Vance, the secretary of the state's Public Protection Cabinet; Brian Lavin, a real-estate developer in Louisville; Robert Lawrence, the director of the Racetrack Management Program at the University of Louisville; Edward S. Bonnie, an equine attorney who is also a member of the racing commission; Duncan Pitchford, an attorney in Paducah; and Ellen Hesen, general counsel for Beshear.