IBJOpinion

EDITORIAL: Don't put reins on horse industry

 IBJ Staff
February 26, 2011
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IBJ Editorial

One billion dollars and growing.

That’s the size of Indiana’s equine industry, according to a recent study by Purdue University-Calumet. That’s up from $294 million just five years before.

Fueling the industry’s growth have been proceeds from Indiana “racinos”—combined horse tracks and casinos in Shelbyville and Anderson. The state sets aside a portion of that money for the industry each year.

That arrangement was part of the 2007 law approving slots gambling at Indiana racetracks. Those payments have meant plumper purses, more competitive races and stronger betting, which has attracted breeders here, making Indiana’s equine industry more competitive with surrounding states.

Now this unbridled growth is in jeopardy. The current draft of the state budget calls for redirecting most of the money that has gone to horse racing to the general fund instead. The industry would receive $27 million in the next fiscal year, down from $60 million this year.

“People were coming to Indiana to breed horses and staying there at Kentucky’s expense and Ohio’s expense,” Alex Waldrop, president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association in Lexington, Ky., told an IBJ reporter in a front-page story last week. “This is a move backwards.”

In this lingering recession, we don’t blame legislators for turning over every rock in search of revenue as they work to build a budget without raising taxes. But they should leave the horse-racing industry’s funding alone. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, has called the payments a “shameful subsidy.”

We would call it something else: an investment that has paid off. The equine industry now provides 7,000 Indiana jobs. That’s almost as many people as are employed by the entire city of Indianapolis. And businesses have moved here in good faith, drawn by the prospect of competitive races and incentives to breed horses locally. Those companies do not deserve a bait-and-switch.

Unlike other sectors, the Hoosier horse industry is off and running. We can’t afford to slow it to a walk.

Daniels keeps his cool

House of Representatives Democrats may have lost their heads during their recent walkout, but Gov. Mitch Daniels didn’t.

His initial response was calm. Rather than stoop to name-calling, he took the high road, expressing confidence that Democrats would return to the people’s business.

Daniels’ restraint may have disappointed the angrier members of his party. But to our ears he struck just the right tone, chiding some of his brethren for diluting the legislative agenda.

Daniels struck a similar conciliatory tone at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. He did not follow the pattern of speakers pandering to the Republican party’s fringe, but made a plea for extending its reach.

“We must be the vanguard of recovery, but we cannot do it alone,” Daniels said.

That’s common-sense wisdom from a man who has grown as a statesman during his time in the Governor’s Office.

What about Daniels’ later, more critical comments about the departed Democrats? What had begun as an extreme, but perhaps justified, measure quickly became purely juvenile, so someone had to try to talk sense into them.•

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To comment on these editorials, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.
 

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  1. Really, taking someone managing the regulation of Alcohol and making himthe President of an IVY Tech regional campus. Does he have an education background?

  2. Jan, great rant. Now how about you review the report and offer rebuttal of the memo. This might be more conducive to civil discourse than a wild rant with no supporting facts. Perhaps some links to support your assertions would be helpful

  3. I've lived in Indianapolis my whole and been to the track 3 times. Once for a Brickyard, once last year on a practice day for Indy 500, and once when I was a high school student to pick up trash for community service. In the past 11 years, I would say while the IMS is a great venue, there are some upgrades that would show that it's changing with the times, just like the city is. First, take out the bleachers and put in individual seats. Kentucky Motor Speedway has individual seats and they look cool. Fix up the restrooms. Add wi-fi. Like others have suggested, look at bringing in concerts leading up to events. Don't just stick with the country music genre. Pop music would work well too I believe. This will attract more young celebrities to the Indy 500 like the kind that go to the Kentucky Derby. Work with Indy Go to increase the frequency of the bus route to the track during high end events. That way people have other options than worrying about where to park and paying for parking. Then after all of this, look at getting night lights. I think the aforementioned strategies are more necessary than night racing at this point in time.

  4. Talking about congestion ANYWHERE in Indianapolis is absolutely laughable. Sure you may have to wait in 5 minutes of traffic to travel down BR avenue during *peak* times. But that is absolutely nothing compared to actual big cities. Indy is way too suburban to have actual congestion problems. So please, never bring up "congestion" as an excuse to avoid development in Indianapolis. If anything, we could use a little more.

  5. Oh wait. Never mind.

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