06/19/2006 12:00AM

Louisiana rider bill passes


A bill that seeks to provide unlimited accident coverage to jockeys at Louisiana racetracks was passed out of a House conference committee on Sunday and has been sent to Gov. Kathleen Blanco for her signature.

The bill, which had been passed by both houses of the Louisiana legislature earlier this month but in slightly different forms, lacks significant detail about how the program will be funded and administered, leading to some criticism from racing officials.

"I've asked numerous questions, and I'm still waiting on an answer," said Randall Soth, the general manager of the Fair Grounds, the New Orleans track owned by Churchill Downs Inc. "What qualifies a jockey as a Louisiana jockey? No one knows. How is the money going to be raised? No answer. Where is the jockey's share of the funding going to come from? No one knows."

The bill does include a provision that requires jockeys to contribute 25 percent of the costs of the program, which will be administered by the Jockeys' Guild, the national organization that represents riders. Barry Broad, the counsel for the guild, said that the program is expected to cost $600,000 to $700,000 a year.

The bill does not identify how the remainder of the funding will be raised. Possible sources could include taking the money from slot-machine revenues at tracks or by assessing fees on tracks and horse owners, legislative officials said.

The guild has been pushing for state-administered workers' compensation. Currently, six other states provide some sort of workers' compensation coverage to riders.