05/03/2004 11:00PM

Second takeout bill passes

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Legislation that would increase the takeout rate in California, with the extra money earmarked to supplement racetrack workers' compensation costs, was passed by the state Assembly on Monday by a unanimous vote. The bill has been sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his signature.

Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill earlier this year, but since then, his administration has passed a statewide workers' compensation reform package. Horsemen's officials said Tuesday that they expected Schwarzenegger to support the new legislation.

"We've been given no indication that there's a problem with the bill," said Drew Couto, the executive director of the Thoroughbred Owners of California. "So we've got our fingers crossed."

The bill would raise the takeout on all bets on Thoroughbred races other than win, place, and show by one-half of 1 percentage point, from 20.18 percent to 20.68 percent. The increase, which would reduce the amount of money that is returned to winning bettors, is expected to generate $10 million a year.

Racetracks and horsemen hope to use the money to reduce the bills paid by trainers for workers' compensation. The money will also be used to implement a "starter's fee" that would give money to any trainer who runs a horse in a race in California, regardless of where the horse finishes.

Currently, trainers pay anywhere from $35 to $65 per $100 of their payroll in workers' compensation fees. Trainers also pay $105 to $173 in workers' comp fees per mount. With the supplements, the rates would drop to $20 per $100 of payroll and $50 per mount, the TOC estimates.

The starter's fee, which is designed to address the state's chronic problem with filling races, would give $400 to any trainer who starts a horse in a race in Southern California. In northern California, each start would earn $300, and at the state's numerous fairs, each start would earn $150.

Couto said he believes that the workers' compensation supplements could begin to be paid within 90 days of the bill being signed by Schwarzenegger. The starter's fee could begin to be paid within two weeks, Couto said.