Updated on 09/15/2011 12:17PM

More simulcasts proposed


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Legislation allowing California racetracks to occasionally offer expanded simulcasting in place of live racing is expected to be introduced this summer in Sacramento, one of three major racing-related bills expected to reach a vote this year.

A bill that would establish a system to unionize backstretch workers is currently in an Assembly committee. A bill allowing telephone betting may be introduced later in the year.

Offered as a combined measure in 2000, the union and telephone betting bills were vetoed by Gov. Gray Davis last September after being approved by the legislature.

The union bill has been fiercely debated, and a subject of concern among trainers, who fear it will lead to employees demanding higher wagers.

The bill would require trainers to keep accurate payroll records and subjects them to audits within four years of passage. In addition, it would direct the California Horse Racing Board to oversee a union recognition procedure for the estimated 3,500 backstretch workers statewide.

Opposition is centered on language permitting unions if 51 percent of the employees sign a card check system. The racing industry wants the procedure to be done by an election process.

"When you have an election process, there are two sides to the issue and there is more thought that goes into the event," said John Van de Kamp, the president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

There is also opposition to the provision requiring the CHRB to provide unions with addresses and phone numbers of backstretch employees.

The bill has passed two committees in the Assembly - the Governmental Organization and Labor and Employment - and is being held in the Appropriations Committee.

The full-card simulcasting legislation will be introduced in early July, according to track officials. It is designed to allow for up to 50 interstate simulcast races per day, up from the current 23 allowed by law.

The bill would give the CHRB the discretion to allow tracks to offer simulcasting instead of live racing, officials said.

Industry officials hope occasional breaks in live racing, such as on weekdays in the winter, would alleviate horse shortages, a problem that has plagued the state in recent years.

Hollywood Park president Rick Baedeker is hopeful the government will support the full-card simulcasting bill since it would continue to provide revenue to the state.

"For the tracks and the horses, it would protect revenue and purses," he said. "For unions, it would protect jobs."

Santa Anita president Jack Liebau said similar legislation was vetoed in 1999 by Davis, who has been opposed to an expansion of racetrack gambling.

The legislation was discussed Tuesday at the California Horse Racing Board's dates committee meeting. The board took no action on 2002 racing dates, but will revisit the issue in July.