John A. Bell, Daily Racing Form, 1954-06-23


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John A. Bell John A. Bell III., prominent Kentucky breeder, is president of the Thoroughbred Club of America. The Thoroughbred Club of America is appreciative of this opportunity to present its views at such an important forum. All of us who are privileged to address this -assembly are aware that your primely concern is the solution of thej?5«ms that face state racing commiMJons, but you also render a very genuine service to racing and breeding by enabling other organizations to participate in this forum. These sessions have been productive of much good for the turf, and I congratulate you on having the foresight to begin them and the forbearance to continue them. As state racing commissioners you are, of course, concerned with the well-being of racing and breeding. You serve as commissioners, even though the duties of the office may frequently require you to take time away from the business or profession that provides your livelihood. As has come to your attention many times during the last several years, one of the most urgent problems which racing now faces concerns unrealistic taxation. Doubless you, as well as I, have been pained by some of the developments which threaten to slowly strangle racing, even though no harm is intended. It must be continually brought to the attention of legislative authorities tha.t in the long run state governments will derive greater total financial benefits from racing if their tax program is based upon ability to pay rather than upon urgency or expediency. Hits Excessive Taxes The future of racing on the high plane that we know it today is being jeopardized by excessive taxes. The important thing is, what can we do about it? I am now offering a partial answer to that complex question. I am suggesting that the horse breeders,, and owners in your respective states can be helpful in combating overtaxation by providing the governing authorities with a better understanding of racing. Governments strong interest in racing from the tax standpoint makes it, in fact, a partner in the thoroughbred Tiorse industry. So far, unfortunately, the governmental partner has been concerned with what it could take out of the industry and has given, little or no thought about the well-being of racing. A closer relationship between racing - and various governmental bodies could do much toward persuading the authorities to take a new and sympathetic interest in racing. Racing commissions occupy the unique position of working closely with both these partners. On the one hand, they know the problems of the race tracks and the horsemen, and on the other hand they are the direct representatives of government. Thus, they are " the only official bodies who know the viewpoints of both parties. Should Be Both Partners The Thoroughbred Club believes that the two partners — the legislative bodies and the thoroughbred industry — should work together for their mutual benefit. The responsibility for this closer liaison could well "be accepted by the thoroughbred breeders, who have not been diligent at working with state officials. One excellent way of briging about this closer relationship would be through trie racing commissions. Whenever racing is called on to defend itself or explain itself, it always becomes glaringly apparent that there is a magnitude of misunderstanding or lack of understanding by the public, which also includes public authorities. Then follows a hasty Continued on Page Fifty-Three Bells Address to Commissioners Continued from Page Three i and ill-planned effort to overcome this handicap, almost always without success. As an example, a substantial tax increase on racing will become effective in Ken- tucky on July 1. One would suppose that the average Kentuckian, who has read and talked about horses all his life, would realize that the new tax would work a hardship on an important part of the states economy, and that in the end it would do far more harm than good. Yet when the roll was called in the state senate, only two men voted against the tax increase. What was lacking in Kentucky, and what is even more sadly needed in other states, is a continuous program of public relations and education. That is where racing commissioners and horse breeders and owners can co-operate successfully. But the horsemen require some direction from you. They are usually inexperienced at politics and they need guidance in that respect. They need to be told who the legislative leaders are, how they feel about racing, and what should be done. For example, visits to breeding farms and race tracks can be arranged so legislators can look on racing as something they know about and not as something remote from their own experience. A number xt excellent movies, such as the Greentfee film, are now available. They explain racing and breeding and do a fine job of presenting the sporting, business, and charitable aspects of the turf. There are many other ways in which racing can be brought to the favorable attention of the men who influence tax and other legislation which affects our sport. Abundant material is available, and there are many people in your state who could work with you along these lines. I am going to suggest to horsemen, through the medium of copies of this talk and through letters, that they ask you to help them work on the problems that arise whenever lawmakers turn their attention to racing. In every racing state there are one or more local groups of horsemen, or there are members of national turf organizations, who will join in Ifoch a program. Most of these men are persons of substance and standing who may have unexpected resources that can be profitably used. They know the local picture and they have influential local connections. Most state legislators are not aware of the long-range effects of over-taxation and other strangling legislation affecting racing, and they often go along with tax bills and other measures because they dont know the complete story. Breeders and others connected with the thoroughbred industry can be the effective means of carrying racings story to members of legislatures and to legislative committees, if they know how to go about it. The American Racing Manual, in its section on racing organizations and offi-calSi lists 30 state and local organizations whose membership consists of breeders and others who are deeply interested in racings problems. These organizations are ready-made to serve the purpose I am suggesting. The Thoroughbred Club of America is prepared to take the initiative by asking the various breeders organizations to cooperate along these lines. I hope that some of these groups will get in touch with you and that you will help them. In the maneuvering between taxing authorities, on the one hand, who are always looking for more, revenue, and the race track on the other hand, which in some instances are reduced to fighting for survival, the thoroughbred breeders and owner has become forgotten. More to the point, he has been ignored.- But besides being a horse breeder or owner he also is a voter and a taxpayer. I suggest that in these latter but important roles he can be very useful in persuading state legislatures that the power to tax racing should be used judiciously. Taxing authorities wield very sharp knives. We want to be sure that in the case of racing, the operation is successful and the patient lives.

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