George D. Widener, Daily Racing Form, 1954-06-23


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| GEORGE D. WIDENER f George D. Widener is a prominent east-* ern owner and breeder, president of the Westchester Racing Association, operator, of Belmont Park, and chairman of The Jockey Club, and spoke in behalf of the latter organization at yesterdays NASRC meeting. We in The Jockey Club are greatly concerned with the future of racing in respect to its survival against the ever-increasing demands of the State and Federal Governments. So far the Federal Government has been satisfied in taxing admissions and just recently they singled out racing as the only sport or amusement not to receive relief in a substantial reduction of federal admission taxes. Spurred on by the evidence that racing can stand greater bites out of the mutuel handle, there has been much talk that the Federal Government may oppose an additional 5 per cent tax on the mutuel handle. Not only would this wreck the future- of racing, but, the increasing demands of State Governments will most surely destroy it before the Federal Government can possibly enact such legislation. Fault Is Failure to Fight I must acknowledge that the fault no doubt is the failure of those interested in racing, to fight. In the early years of this century, racing was conducted in only a very few states and New York was considered the "Big Apple." Betting was handled by bookmakers, and although not illegal, there was always the fear that the legislators would vote betting out. Everyone knew that racing could not survive as a purely spectator sport. The tremendous costs of breeding farms and racing stables made it necessary for the associations to provide adequate purses and stakes. Race track improvements, taxes and operating expenses called for a sizable income and fair profit, especially considering the hazards of such investments. So there was a great reluctance to match swords with anyone in power. In 1910 Governor Hughes was successful in passing a bill which prohibited book-making in New York, and for a couple -of years racing continued on only a very modified basis, at considerable loss to the operators and horsemen. Then oral betting was made legal. However, those with great investments were even more timid] GEORGE D. WIDEN ER— Chairman of The Jockey Club. than before. The pari-mutuel system, which had become very popular in other states, soon became the legal method of, betting in New- York. New laws were passed, all of which gave the state a share in the gross profits from the mutuel handle. Racing flourished and in New York the average daily handle soon reached ,000,000 a day, quickly followed by an average of ,000,000 a day. In 1945 the average reached almost ,000,000 a day. In the beginning the take out of the mutuel handlewas 10 per cent, five per cent of which went to the state and. five per cent to the track. Legislators, reading Continued on Page Eight | G. D. WIDENERS NASRC ADDRESS Continued from Page Three 4 the newspaper accounts of this tremendous handle and the amount of money retained by the race track, immediately took one per cent of the tracks five per cent for the state. Then the City of New York, seeing a golden opportunity, won the consent of the State Legislature to impost an additional five per cent, making the total 15 per cent, plus breakage. This, despite the very aggressive opposition of the New. York State Racing Commissioners, particularly their chairman, Ashley T. Cole, who went to Albany to protest personally the imposition of such tax. New York tracks were compelled to raise their stakes and purses to. meet competition in adjacent states where the tracks received 50 per cent more out of the handle and the public could bet with the assurance that only 11 per cent or 12 per cent would be taken out of their money. Several states, learning of the great sums New York was taking out of racing, increased their over-all take. Just recently Kentucky legislators followed suit in a movement that might well eventually seal the doom of racing in the Blue Grass State, the heart of the breeding industry. Now we find New York gradually receding from top position. Belmont Park is old and our income does not permit rebuilding or raising purses to meet competition. The wave of prosperity in other states will be short-lived top, for they will find themselves in the same position, with the State Government gobbling the lions share of the handle and adding more percentage whenever a budget needs balancing. The public will eventually wake up to the fact that they cannot win in the end with fifteen to twenty cents taken out of every dollar they send through the mutuel machines and the state will then have killed the goose that laid the golden egg. You gentlemen are the States representatives in racing. Study the facts and advise your governors and state legislators of what they are doing. Try to convince them that now is the time to take stock of one of their most lucrative sources of revenue before it is too late. I would like to take the balance of the time allotted to me today to answer a question I have been asked so many times: "Just what part does The Jockey Club play in racing?" Service Sought by Foreign Countries As you all know, The Jockey Club is the custodian of the American Stud Book. The task of identifying, registering and naming every thoroughbred which races in the United States and of facilitating the importation and exportation of thoroughbreds is one of great magnitude and responsibility. Our experience of more than fifty years yMjvorsofjacingproxmU ►rules and consultants with all groups iri racing has resulted in a general service sought by many foreign racing authorities as wellas those of our own separate states. The fact that we have no affiliation with any specific group which may have selfish interests and that we have no political responsibilities permits an entirely unbiased opinion on all matters pertaining to racing. We have selected and appointed the racing officials for all tracks operating in New York for over a half century and for the state of Delaware for their entire life in racing. We maintain a registry of racing colors that offers a unique service to all states to preclude the duplication of the colors, regardless of wtiere an owner may choose to race. The results of our very voluminous and lengthy investigations of individuals in racing have been available for many years to all state racing commissions, racing associations and investigative agencies seeking information" unobtainable elsewhere. We have pioneered in horse identification and methods to safeguard racing from mistakes, wilful or neglectful, which might result in a horses running in an identity other than his own. Assisted in Development of Film Patrol We have assisted in the development of the photo-finish and film patrol. We inaugurated examinations for trainers licenses and investigations, resulting in a much higher caliber of conditioners of horses. We assisted in the development of. a system to detect stimulation and safeguard horses from tampering. We have gathered together representatives from all branches of racing to consider problems that may be resolved by fxank discussions. We act as custodian of apprentice jockey contracts and publish all data pertinent thereto in our Racing Calendar. We publish in the Calendar information invaluable to horsemen, breeders and racing officials. We provide legal service in protecting horsemens interests throughout the country. We have trained a sizable group of racing officials who have been made available to all commissions and race tracks. We have taught many racing officials who have attended our school from other states. We have acted as consultants for groups in foreign countries who have sought our advice on constructing and operating race tracks. These services we offer to you commissioners, as well as any others which you may wish to ask of us, for the members of The Jockey Club are joined together for the one purpose of helping all branches of our industry to maintain its present high standard.

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