06/21/2006 11:00PM

New effort for gaming machines at racetracks


In an effort to boost revenue for racetracks and purses, California's horsemen and racetracks proposed legislation on Wednesday to allow nearly 13,000 gambling machines to be installed at the state's racetracks.

The machines would offer a game called Instant Racing, a parimutuel game that plays like a slot machine. They have been in place for several years at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and have been credited with helping to raise purses. Oaklawn had an average daily handle of more than $1.1 million on Instant Racing machines during its meeting earlier this year.

California racing officials see the machines as a way to compete with Native American casinos in the state, which they say have drawn business away from racetracks. Native American tribes are expected to oppose any expanded gambling bill.

The legislation is scheduled to be heard by the state Senate's Governmental Organization committee on Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Leland Yee of San Francisco, would allow up to 1,850 Instant Racing machines per track. Revenue from the machines would be divided primarily between racetracks and horsemen (in the form of purses), with smaller shares dedicated to simulcast host cities and welfare programs for jockeys and backstretch workers.

The proposal for the machines is the latest foray into alternative gambling for California tracks. In 2004, the tracks suffered a serious setback when California voters rejected a referendum allowing 30,000 slot machines at the state's tracks and card clubs.