02/27/2004 1:00AM

Takeout bill gets alterations

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ARCADIA, Calif. - A month after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have increased the takeout on exotic wagers on races in California to help cover the costs of workers' compensation, racing officials have finalized language on similar legislation that includes the changes suggested by Schwarzenegger.

The legislation could reach the committee level this week, according to Drew Couto, the executive director of the Thoroughbred Owners of California. It may be introduced by Assemblyman Jerome Horton (D-Inglewood), or could be added to another bill, Couto said.

"We were given indications by the governor's office that we could use another bill to expedite this bill," Couto said. "If we use another vehicle, we could get in play three or so weeks earlier."

Officials are hoping the bill will be passed by the end of April, and possibly sooner. "We're looking for a swift process now," said Rick Baedeker, president of Hollywood Park.

The changes from the original legislation include a sunset clause, which in effect causes a law to repeal itself as of a given date in the future. In this case, the takeout increase is expected to expire in 2010. Other changes are a wider involvement from racetracks and county fairs in the management of the insurance program and a provision that calls for occasional reporting to the California Horse Racing Board on the program's financial status.

"We had a meeting with the governor's senior staff," Couto said. "We asked for clarification as to what issues had to be addressed."

The bill would raise the takeout on all bets other than win, place, or show from 20.18 to 20.68 percent. The resulting revenue, estimated at $10 million, would be used to help trainers cover the high cost of mandatory workers' compensation policies. The takeout bill has emergency status and would go into effect 30 days after passage.

If $10 million of revenue is reached, average insurance rates paid by trainers would drop to $20 per $100 of payroll and $50 per jockey's mount. Trainers currently pay $35 to $65 on payroll and $105 to $173 per jockey's mount.

Schwarzenegger's veto shocked racing officials last month after the State Assembly and Senate approved the bill with little opposition. They had expected Schwarzenegger to sign the bill after it passed the Senate 31-4 last September and the Assembly by a vote of 78-0.