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22-Year Handle Low Sets Tone for 2008 Ohio Equine Industry Outlook

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jan. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- With wagering at Ohio horse race tracks reaching a historic low, state industry leaders are highlighting the convergence of factors that continue to prevent racing from level competition with states with expanded gambling.

Ohio handle dropped 12 percent in 2007, to $371.8 million. It was the first time since 1984 wagering at Ohio horse race tracks dropped below $400 million.

Dropping handle is the key indicator of horse racing activity migrating out of Ohio to states that support the industry with expanded gambling revenue, where horses race for fatter purses driven up by track casino wagering. Save Ohio Racing has created a 2008 outlook report that explores the impact of expanded gambling on horse racing in neighboring states and a legislative summary of likely expanded racetrack gambling adoption in new states around Ohio.

"Ohio is in the middle of a perfect storm raging against the future of horse racing, breeding and training," says Elisabeth Alexander, president of Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders & Owners. "At a time when our leaders should be making every effort to protect a viable, home-grown industry contributing $779 million a year to the state economy, the storm just keeps growing with the legislature having no appetite to help our plight."

Ohio's handle decline is especially alarming because other states that have turned down expanded gambling in the past are accepting the reality of its direct correlation to the health of the equine industry and as a viable government funding source.

"Sometimes -- many times -- it feels like our messages are falling on deaf ears," says Dr. John Mossbarger, past president of the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association. "But we have no choice in the industry but to keep repeating ourselves, in the hopes Ohioans will start to understand we're not just crying wolf. We are not only suffering against uneven competition now, but stand to be in much worse shape if Kentucky or Maryland, or both, also vote in 2008 to expand gambling supporting their horse racing operations."

Save Ohio Racing's 2008 outlook report is available at http://www.saveohioracing.com, where more information is also available about the negative impact to Ohio of expanded gambling in surrounding states.


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