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Hobson: Gaming Legislation Spurs Horse Industry Boom

Two years after Oklahoma voters approved a state question allowing Oklahoma horse racing tracks to operate video gaming machines, Oklahoma's horse industry is experiencing a major resurgence, Sen. Cal Hobson said on Tuesday.

In the 2004 legislative session, Hobson authored Senate Bill 553, the State-Tribal Gaming Act, which allowed Oklahomans to vote on establishing procedures for electronic gaming at Oklahoma race tracks. The legislation also designated payments from tribal gaming revenues to the state. In the past several years, track owners had openly discussed the closure of several facilities. However, since passage by the voters of SQ712, attendance, purses and revenue have soared at Oklahoma race tracks, due largely to video gaming, Hobson said.

"Through the quarter horse season that just finished, Remington Park managed to eclipse every season attendance total since 2000," said Hobson, D-Lexington. "Will Rogers Downs closed in 2001, but this year has reopened to great fanfare. The legislation I authored in the 2004 session carried with it the promise of saving the Oklahoma horse industry's 10,000 jobs, and by all indications it has done just that."

In March alone, Oklahoma City's Remington Park attracted an average of 3,500 visitors daily, a significant increase from prior figures. The previously closed Will Rogers Downs in Claremore now employs more than 150 people, and revenues have nearly doubled. Hobson explained the benefits of Oklahoma's electronic gaming laws extend far beyond success for the state's racetracks. A provision of SB 553 called for gaming revenue received by the state to be dedicated to funding education as well as college scholarships.

"This was truly a win-win for the state," Hobson said. "We have the benefit of additional funding to improve our public schools and provide opportunities for college degrees, while protecting the horse industry and creating jobs for Oklahomans. I'm very pleased by the positive results this legislation has produced."