04/09/2006 11:00PM

Kentucky workers' comp stalled

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - A bill that would raise the takeout on Kentucky races in order to fund workers' compensation insurance for jockeys has little chance of passage during the last days of the state legislature, according to a state senator and racing lobbyist.

Sen. Damon Thayer, a Republican who is also an employee of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said recently that the bill has failed to find support in the Senate because of concerns over the funding formula and the potential for the bill to open up the state to calls by other independent contractors for insurance coverage.

"I don't see this going anywhere during this session," Thayer said.

The bill, which would raise the takeout on all bets at Kentucky tracks by 0.1 percent, passed the state's House of Representatives in March after being amended to raise funds from bettors instead of racetracks, horse owners, and jockeys. The Kentucky legislature went back into session on Monday to vote on the state's budget and other bills that have not yet passed, but the workers' compensation bill has not been slated for a vote on the Senate floor, according to racing lobbyists.

"It has not been one of the bills that [the legislature] has said will be addressed," said David Switzer, the executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, on Monday. "That's not to say it won't happen, but it appears very unlikely."

Switzer said that the structure of the bill is being reconsidered by many legislators in part because of the results from the recent Turfway Park meet in northern Kentucky. Turfway installed an all-weather surface called Polytrack last year that is considered safer for horses, and, according to the track, there were no catastrophic breakdowns during the recent meet that resulted in a horse being euthanized, compared with 15 during the previous meet. Keeneland has also announced its intention to install a Polytrack this year after its spring meet.

"We're looking at a lot less accidents, and a lot less ambulance runs," Switzer said. "That tells us right there that we could have significant changes to the insurance policy and the cost of the premium, so it's something that probably has to be studied more."