I have been around horses all my life. When I graduated high school in 1952, I was a rodeo circuit cowboy and was inducted into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame last year.
Several years ago, our family started raising and racing horses. We always enjoyed going to Eureka Downs because it was a family activity. I like to say we would drink soda pop, eat popcorn and race horses. There were many small family operations like ours across the state.
But a lot of people had to get out of the business when horse racing left the state in 2007. At that time, the tax rate for racetracks was set at 40 percent while the rate for privately-run, state-owned casinos was set at 22 percent. Racetrack operators determined that a tax rate of 40 percent was not economically viable and all Kansas racetracks closed.
I don’t think legislators realized how it affected the state. There is a lot of money in horse racing in Kansas. It has caused a hardship for many of us. We now have much more expenses because we have to take them to Grand Island, Neb., or Oklahoma City any time we want to race or even work them to get an official time. All of that money is going out of state instead of coming into Kansas.
I am excited that Kansas has the opportunity to bring back racing this year with the passage of HB 2537. This bill would correct the taxing inequality and put Kansas racetracks at parity with Kansas casinos so they can both operate. I am encouraging our legislators to pass HB 2537.
I am very proud of our basketball and football teams in Kansas. But imagine if Kansas no longer had a college basketball program. All of our very good athletes would go to school out of state. When there was a game, their family would go out of state to watch them.
Racing is a sport and something similar happened. I hope we can bring back horse racing and this great tradition in Kansas. Please encourage our legislators to pass HB 2537.