01/07/2004 1:00AM

Vote nears on takeout increase


ARCADIA, Calif. - A bill that would increase the takeout on exotic wagers on Thoroughbred races in California by 0.5 percent in an effort to offset workers' compensation costs paid by trainers was expected to reach a vote by the State Assembly on Thursday or Friday.

Assembly Bill 900, sponsored by Jerome Horton (D-Inglewood), was approved by the State Senate last September by a vote of 31-4. The bill was not addressed by the Assembly before it recessed in mid-September.

If approved by the Assembly by a two-thirds margin, the bill would be forwarded to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who will have 30 days to act. If Schwarzenegger signs the bill, it would go into effect immediately.

Racing officials are optimistic the bill will be passed and signed by Schwarzenegger.

"I have no reason to believe we will have a problem," said John Van de Kamp, the president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California. "The question is, how quickly will he get to it?"

The bill would raise the takeout on all bets other than win, place, or show from 20.18 to 20.68 percent.

Increasing the takeout has been criticized by some racing fans, who will bear the burden of the costs. Racing officials argue that California's exotic takeout remains lower than the takeout in most states. For example, a trifecta or superfecta at Gulfstream Park has a takeout of 25 percent, while other exotics there have a 20 percent takeout.

At Fair Grounds in Louisiana, daily doubles and exactas have a takeout of 20.5 percent, while other exotics have a takeout of 25 percent.

The program is designed to raise $10 million to help pay for insurance premiums, which have been a burden to California trainers since the private market essentially dissolved in early 2002. 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.

Van de Kamp said that horsemen could realize savings as soon as 30 days after the bill is approved.