By Jerry Kopel
According to the "experts", we may have to consider, in the near
future, a "cut and run" policy after a continuous decline over a
number of years. No, I'm NOT writing about Iraq. This is about the
Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) recommendations on live horse
and greyhound racing in Colorado.
The Colorado Racing Commission and the Division of Racing Events are
scheduled for Sunset repeal July 1, 2007, unless continued by the
legislature. One recommendation is to continue regulation until
2016. Another recommendation is to provide the executive branch
authority to repeal the law prior to 2016.
That would be quite difficult constitutionally, and also unwise.
Legislators should decide whether to repeal regulation of both horse
and greyhound racing, or just one, based on revisions needed to
Why the sour approach? Over a 10 year period, 1995 through 2005,
live racing days for greyhounds has declined from 720 to 269. That's
nearly a two/thirds drop. On the other hand, simulcast greyhound
racing days in 2005 numbered 249.
Live horse racing days in the same decade have dropped from 268 to
37, an 86 percent drop. DORA reports:
"Racing Associates of Colorado is the sole association...to sponsor
a horse race meet and it does so at Arapahoe Park in Aurora." Its
live race meet in 2006 consisted of about 36 racing days. If so,
live horse racing in Colorado has "bottomed out" for the most recent
On the other hand, there were 240 simulcast racing days in 2005.
Combine 240 and 37, and it's a little better than the 268 live horse
racing days in 1995 when Colorado simulcast race days didn't
According to DORA, a simulcast is "A live, audio-visual broadcast,
transmitted simultaneously with the performance of a live horse or
greyhound race by either an out-of-state host track or an in-state
track, which is received by a simulcast facility." In my days,
before regulation, these were called betting parlours, sometimes
owned by unsavory characters. Remember the movie "The Sting"?
There are three greyhound associations running live races at two
tracks. There were 269 live racing days and 249 simulcast racing
days in 2005. It doesn't appear that live greyhound racing is
running out of patrons.
One DORA recommendation is Reaganesque: Lower the tax rate on
greyhound gross handle (the amount wagered) from 4.5 percent to the
0.75 gross handle presently levied on horse racing. In 2005, 86
percent of the taxes paid to Colorado came from greyhound racing.
The recommended reduction would likely reduce Colorado's $3.5
million in total tax receipts by several million dollars.
But the tax reduction "might" produce larger prizes, help in
overhead costs and keep a good number of employees at work.
The gross amount wagered in 2005 was $159 million with the largest
portion coming from simulcast operations. The amount is respectable
but not significant, having dropped $64 million compared to 2001,
almost all the drop coming from live races.
In 2003, a British Gambling Corporation, Wembly PLC, by voter
initiative got a measure on the November ballot to allow Video
Lottery Terminals at five designated racetracks, four of which it
owned. The initiative was badly defeated.
In my opinion, the growth of alternative gambling incentives such as
casinos and lotteries has resulted in the demise of at least, live
horse races. A simulcast approach fits in nicely with gamblers and
it might be wise for the racing commission to view that as the main
source for patron entertainment and state taxation.
* * *
The overwhelming desire of persons to have their occupations
regulated continues unabated. As babies, we needed pacifiers, as
adults, we need occupation licenses. DORA has completed its Sunrise
reviews for bill introductions in 2007.
New reviews for 2007 are good for two years. Occupations reviewed
in 2005, but not passed in 2006, have one more chance without a
further DORA review.
The one year limit applies to landscape architects, conveyances,
crane operators, fire and burglar alarm systems, athletic trainers,
school psychologists, and naturopathic physicians.
The two year limit applies to interpreters for the deaf, private
investigators, private security companies and private security
guards, hemodialysis technicians, occupational therapists and
occupational therapy assistants.
Bills for morticians, sports agents and debt management were
introduced in 2006 based on a legal services memo suggesting that
since language already existed concerning morticians, sports agents,
and debt management there was no need to go though Sunrise review.
An informal memo by the attorney general's office, took the opposite
The morticians and sports agents bills passed the legislature but
were vetoed in part because of the attorney general's opinion. The
debt management bill did not pass the legislature.
In its broadest interpretations, the Sunrise law only allows five
new occupations to be licensed in any one year. Lobbyists may not
care, but before introduction, those footing "the bill for the bill"
should ask governor-elect Bill Ritter which ones will get his veto.
He has already publicly announced he would veto the bill regulating
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)