Updated on 09/16/2011 8:42AM

A long, cold summer of U.S.A. race blues


TUCSON, Ariz. - It is going to be a very chilly Fourth of July for North American racing, wherever you are and whatever the temperature.

The big crowds will turn out, and handles will swell with simulcasting, as usual. But behind the facade of the Fourth is a world of trouble.

In Washington, Chris Cannon, a senator from Utah, where you can't legally pitch pennies, submarined American horse racing's legally entitled exemption from a ban on Internet wagering in the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives. He boasts about it to Salt Lake City's Deseret News, saying he saved Utah from gambling.

In Indiana, Larry Borst, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee who once was regarded as a friend of horse racing, plays a key role in blocking slot-like pull-tabs for Hoosier Park and Indianapolis Downs. He had told The Indianapolis Star that he would not accept proposals for expanded gambling in the state, and made good on his vow.

In New Jersey, Thoroughbred horsemen, who earlier got a bill introduced in Congress trying to amend the Interstate Horseracing Act even though the national HBPA calls it a bad idea, got another bill introduced in the New Jersey state legislature. The latest would completely restructure the racing commission, remove four commissioners, and make it mandatory to include four horsemen on the nine-man board.

Similarly, in Ontario, Thoroughbred and harness horsemen, also seeking more power and a larger part in governance, are taking shots at OHRIA, the organization that played a huge role in bringing racing together and getting slots for 15 tracks in the province. Those slots now provide Ontario racing with unprecedented prosperity and the highest purses in the history of Canadian racing.

In Alberta, Northlands Park, which has hosted horse racing in Edmonton for more than a century, faces extinction if Magna is awarded racing dates. No one knows if Magna even applied for dates, although the application deadline was April 30. Magna isn't saying, and Horse Racing Alberta, the licensing agency, dropped a veil of secrecy over the proceedings two months ago. Only one license is allowed in Edmonton.

In Illinois, the gaming commission plans to hold an auction for the disputed Emerald Casino license, hoping to get a billion dollars for it. Under the current arrangement, horse racing is assured of a healthy subsidy from casino gambling in the Chicago area. Is everyone here convinced that a gambling operation that might pay that kind of money would stand still for a major sharing of revenue with horsemen? Is everyone here confident that if pressed by the buyer, the gambling commission and legislature would hold firm on the sharing plan?

In California, opposition from horsemen and Hollywood Park and Del Mar helped stall for this year the move of Fairplex racing from the Los Angeles County Fair at Pomona to Santa Anita, re-igniting the old racing fires that have long burned between Arcadia and Inglewood.

In New York, litigation still clouds the slots issue, despite upstate tracks hanging on by the fingernails waiting for them. The town of Saratoga, despite its historic gambling heritage, is playing an active role fighting slots, and NYRA is against them in Saratoga because of slots competition in July and August from the harness track across the street, which would have them year-round. At Aqueduct, meanwhile, NYRA wants the closing hours for slots operation extended from midnight to 2 a.m.

In Ohio, legislators are challenging numbers put forth in advocacy of slots at Buckeye tracks, and the chances seem dim at the moment of getting them, at least until the state finds out next winter that its budget deficit is threatening to overwhelm its educational system.

In Maryland, no action as yet in a Magna takeover of the Maryland Jockey Club, with the racing commission still irate over the inability of disparate racing interests to march to the same drummer in the state.

In Arizona, racetracks and Indian tribes are battling over whether to keep casino gambling on reservations or install slots at the tracks as well. It appears the matter will be settled by ballot in November, in a state where the public has understandable concern for Indian interests.

The weather in Tucson just set a record for June: 16 consecutive days of temperatures above 105.

From a racing viewpoint, however, it's freezing.

Hand me that sweater, please.