05/16/2004 11:00PM

Trainers welcome new law


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Ed Halpern, the executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, has spent the last two years agonizing over the increased premiums that trainers in the state have paid for workers' compensation insurance.

As the trainer of a small stable, Halpern has had both an executive and personal view of the situation.

When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation last Thursday to increase the takeout on exotic wagers placed on California races by one-half of 1 percent to offset workers' compensation costs, Halpern breathed a sigh of relief.

"The profit margin was nonexistent at the old level" of costs, Halpern said. "With the increases it was not feasible to be a trainer. This will now help."

As a result of the legislation, bettors will receive slightly lower payoffs for winning exotic bets.

For horsemen, the benefits will be implemented over the next two months.

Owners in Southern California will receive $400 for each unplaced runner. That is scheduled to go into effect on May 26, according to Hollywood Park president Rick Baedeker. Smaller payments will be made to starters on the northern California and county fair circuits.

Beginning July 1, trainers will receive a subsidy on their workers' compensation policies for backstretch employees. The subsidy is expected to be $15 per $100 of payroll. For trainers enrolled in the AIG insurance program, the subsidy will be paid directly to the insurance company, Baedeker said.

A subsidy system has not been finalized for trainers enrolled in the State Fund, a government-backed insurance program, Baedeker said.

For many trainers, the premium subsidy will reduce payroll premiums from about $35 to approximately $20 per $100 of payroll.

"It will have a huge impact," trainer Craig Lewis said. "As it stands now, I'm taking a beating. I eat a lot of it because it's been so prohibitive. Whatever is it, it's better than what it was before."

In addition to the subsidies to California owners and trainers, out-of-state horsemen will receive a subsidy to help offset transportation costs to California. The requirements that those horsemen must meet to receive the payments has not been finalized.

To raise awareness of the benefits of the new legislation, an ad campaign aimed mostly at out-of-state horsemen is being launched this week by Hollywood Park.

"We've got to go on the road and let them know there is a less expensive way to come to California." Baedeker said.

Baedeker said a meeting with Southern California horsemen has been tentatively scheduled for May 29 to discuss the new legislation.