'NC Derby Act' Sidesteps Key Issue

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Two North Carolina senators filed a bill Apr. 6 that would create a racing commission to promote and regulate a built-from-scratch Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry in a state where pari-mutuel wagering is currently not legal.

Despite that seemingly large hurdle, Senators Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) and Jim Perry (R-Lenoir) for the most part sidestepped the controversial issue of horse betting in Senate Bill 629, which is titled “The North Carolina Derby Act.”

The only gambling-related reference within the bill comes under the definition for the proposed “North Carolina Racing Office,” which is to be established under the Lottery Commission and would be “vested with control of all horse racing in the State and with power to adopt rules under which racing and wagering shall be conducted.”

In other words, the bill's backers are banking on fellow legislators and the citizenry of a very conservative state being okay with allowing a newly created racing commission to legalize horse betting simply by writing regulations that make it allowable.

When asked by WRAL News why betting wasn't more specifically addressed within the bill, Lowe replied, “That's part of the industry.”

North Carolina hosts limited steeplechase and harness meets that are non-pri-mutuel.

Lowe told WRAL that commercial Thoroughbred racing presents an opportunity for economic development, even in rural areas.

“It's a billion-dollar industry,” Lowe said. “You start looking at restaurants, hotels and all of the things that go around with this kind of agricultural sporting event-there's a lot that goes into it.”

The bill states that the racing commission would be charged with the duty to “Develop a long-term plan for racing in North Carolina to determine the appropriate location and number of tracks to be built in this State so as to position any major track and its purse structure in the upper segment of good quality tracks while creating a strong breeding, foaling, and training structure throughout the State.”

The bill further adds that the commission would be tasked with issuing “permits to build only quality racing facilities that are designed to permit year-round racing.”

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