02/26/2004 1:00AM

Racing legislation vote deadline nears

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PORTLAND, Ore. - With the State of Washington's 60-day legislative session scheduled to end March 9, legislation deemed vital to the state's $330 million Thoroughbred industry is still awaiting action from the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

The legislation, designated Substitute Senate Bill 6481, would legalize advance deposit wagering in Washington, allowing Emerald Downs to collect source market fees on the estimated $13 million annually that is already being wagered on the track's races through out-of-state advance deposit wagering firms. The bill would also expand full-card simulcast wagering to Emerald's 21 satellite sites, and it would remove restrictions on the number of days per week and hours per day that parimutuel wagering can be conducted.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 38-10 on Feb. 13. The House Commerce and Labor Committee held a hearing on the bill Feb. 19, but it has yet to take action to pass the bill along to the House Rules Committee, where it must go before being voted upon by the full House.

At the Feb. 19 hearing, Emerald president Ron Crockett testified that the track lost $2.6 million over the past two years. He attributed the loss at least partly to the growth of advance deposit wagering, which currently returns nothing to the state's Thoroughbred industry. Legalizing advance deposit wagering would allow Emerald to negotiate with account wagering firms such as TVG, Youbet.com, and Brisbet for a share of their handle on its races.

It is not possible to determine how much Emerald could collect in source market fees from the 18 advance deposit wagering firms currently operating in the U.S., as that amount must be negotiated with each firm. TVG, which is the only account wagering company that will currently not accept wagers on Emerald races, reported that it normally returns about 10 percent of its handle to the source tracks. Source market fees collected by Emerald would be shared with the track's horsemen and the Washington Horse Racing Commission.

But nothing will be collected unless SSB 6481 is passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by the governor. Nobody testified against the bill at the recent Commerce and Labor Committee hearing, but there is still the possibility that the bill could fail to become law.

"It could get lost in the shuffle in the rush to end the session," said Bob Leichner, executive secretary for the WHRC. "That's why it is important for everybody who is interested in this bill to keep bugging their legislators until they vote on it."

Portland Meadows reschedules missed days

The Oregon Racing Commission has approved make-up dates for the four Portland Meadows programs lost to severe winter weather in January.

Three of the make-up programs will be run during the final week of the meet on regular racing days that were left dark for just such an eventuality. They are April 19, 23, and 26. The track already had been scheduled to run on Saturday, April 24, which would have been closing day.

The fourth and most problematical make-up program will be run on Tuesday, March 9, with a 1:35 p.m. first post. Track officials were hoping to avoid racing four days in one week, which might spread the available horse population too thin, but that became unavoidable after the commission insisted the track run 80 days, the number required by law to earn the right to conduct simulcast wagering, within the calendar window assigned to it.

Special series dates

This season's marathon series at Portland Meadows will be sponsored by Hambleton Lumber Company, which is owned by horseman Jim Hambleton. The series, which will be run under $4,000 starter allowance conditions, will consist of a 1 1/8-mile leg to be run for a $4,000 purse on March 15, a 1 1/4-mile leg for a $4,500 purse on April 5, and a 1 1/2-mile leg for a $5,000 purse on April 24.

Other upcoming series, also to be run under $4,000 starter allowance conditions, for purses of $4,000, are the Rialto Sprint Series on March 19, and April 2 and 16, and the Cisco Road Filly and Mare Series on March 13, 26, and April 10.

In all three of the series, the trainer of the horse accumulating the most points will receive a bonus of $1,000. The owner of the horse accumulating the most points in the Cisco Road Filly and Mare Series will receive one free breeding to Cisco Road, one of the Northwest's leading sires.

* Jack Pring, whose Appleway Leasing Co. owns the now defunct Playfair Race Course in Spokane, Wash., said all of the track's belongings, except the land, will be offered for auction on Thursday, March 4. Pring said all items, including tractors, harrows, tables, chairs, dishes, silverware, and a wealth of memorabilia, will be sold without reserves. The auction starts at 9 a.m. at the track.