December 1, 2023
Yes, there is still an effort going on to bring horse racing back to Kansas!
As most of you know by now, The Woodlands was demolished two years ago and sold by billionaire Phil Ruffin who had bought the track primarily to keep any legislative effort to reduce the state tax on slot machine revenue at tracks connected to his Wichita Greyhound Park. Opportunity had presented itself to have a "Woodlands only" bill that would have allowed horse racing to continue there.. However, that was not compatible with Ruffin's plans.
Simulcasting was the lifeline of Eureka Downs since a percentage of all simulcast handle goes toward purses and ooperational costs of the track, which cannot generate enough revenue on its own to offer live racing. When the constitutional amendment was passed in 1986 it specifically stated that no simulcasting can be offered without live racing being conducted at that facility wishing to offer parimutuel wagering on simulcast races. But it appears the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission views the constitution in a different manner as they are about to grant a "horse racing facility owner and operator license" to operate an HHR (historical horse racing) facility that may offer simulcast without any live horse racing included.
In 2022 a bill was passed that allows HHR in Sedgwick county only. This bill struck most (but not all) existing statutes which required live racing be a part of any "racetrack facility" license granted by the KRGC. Surrounded by controversy (see article) the KRGC granted a company owned by Phil Ruffin the sole HHR license in July of 2023. Public objections on behalf of horsemen to the KRGC have been ignored while offering no justification for granting a racetracck license without a racetrack. Without legal representation it will be difficult to change their course.
Efforts to bring a gaming/horse racing group in to bid on the HHR license fell short as the statute change was tailored specifically around Phil Ruffin and what he could do financially while most cannot. So once again, the horsemen are riding out of town with the bright lights of casino gambling shining on our backs as we ride our horses out of town ... unless we can still make something positive out of it.
In the 2023 legislative session a bill was introduced that would direct the 3% state tax on HHR back to horsemen in the way of Kansas Breeders Development Fund and Horse Racing Fair Fund. We came very close to passing this bill and feel upbeat there is a good chance of it passing in 2024. If this bill does pass, we can expect to see a major improvement in Eureka Down take place with the ability to offer good purses for a race meet there ... and possibly another track development. The bill has passed the Senate already so just needs to pass the House. We have plenty of support but as any legislation goes, it must pass through the proper channels.
Please don't ignore this last opportunity ... it's a real one that could be much bigger than we ever dreamed of. The bill is HB2434. It can be seen here (click). The fiscal note, explanation of the bill can be seen here (click). Everyone needs to call their Representative and ask him to support the bill.