Dr. Loren Scott, LSU economist who developed a survey of the impact of St. Gabriel Downs has issued a promising report indicating that at a time when simple living costs are going up for everyone and local governments are suffering from diminishing revenues, the proposed Racino will provide an economic shot in the arm for the Iberville-Ascension Parish area and the entire state.
The report forecast an immediate impact will come from 1,234 new jobs the $90 million dollar structure will create including $6 million for land acquisition, $62 million in construction costs, and $21.6 million for equipment and materials. Financial benefits to the two parish regions during the construction phase alone will generate $13.6 million increase in business sales and $46.7 million in local household earnings.
The local long-term impact on the area economy after opening is expected to include 1,694 in new jobs for track and ripple effect jobs with $16 million in new manufacturing sales and $10 million in new retail and real estate sales. This would mean a $150.9 million increase in state business sales and $51.4 million increase in Louisiana state household earnings after the anticipated 2010 opening.
Horse breeders should also welcome the new venue since the study indicates a rapidly growing breeding industry is being hamstrung by a lack of racing venues. “We’ve seen a great surge in foals born since incomes from slots at the tracks have provided richer purses and incentives for breeders. However, it’s a chicken and egg thing; we’ve got a greater reward for good horses which means more people are breeding good lines. But, it’s getting crowded at the starting gate. Many people have the continuing expenses of housing and feeding their stock without actually getting them in a race. We need another venue to continue to grow the industry,” Harry Benoit, a spokesman for the horse industry stated.
“Louisiana actually had another race track with Jefferson Downs but that track closed so we are not adding another track, we are merely replacing one that failed,” Benoit concluded.
The Louisiana Horse Breeders Association recently passed a resolution endorsing the new track as long as the proposed track results in an overall increase in races and racing days for Louisiana bred.
The initial legislation, SB 187 by Rob Marionneaux, D, Livonia, provides for a local option referendum to:
1. Permit a race track in Iberville Parish with both thoroughbred and quarter horse races,
2. Allow the racetrack to have off-track betting which is currently permitted at the four existing racetracks.
3. Provide for slots at the racetrack to raise revenues for winner’s purses.
Slots at the track provide the funding mechanism for the purse structure at the tracks. This has successfully enhanced the purses in Louisiana since 2002 to make the Louisiana Horse Industry one of the most prosperous in the US. The purse structure, especially for Louisiana Bred, has been so successful, that the number of LA Bred has more than doubled since the opening of the Racino.
A second piece of legislation that simply divides the proceeds from the track among the local authorities is not expected to generate any controversy.
“This is local option and local control at its best,” Mayor George Grace of St. Gabriel stated. “I believe it to be something useful and needed. We can use the additional jobs and construction and the money that will generate in all forms of taxes. Just having a venue which will attract thousands of people from surrounding areas will give us a multiplier in the overall economic impact of St. Gabriel Downs.”
“All five of our local municipalities have passed a resolution of support,” Mayor Grace reported. “People don’t often consider that as their expenses go up, so does the cost of providing services from local government. Fuel, insurance, equipment, wages, all go up even as our citizens’ willingness and ability to pay more taxes for those needed services diminishes. Local governments are often told by the state that we need to do more on our own to raise local revenues, to paddle our own canoes; well, this is one pirogue we will be happy to paddle if the legislature will only give us the chance to vote on our own future,” Grace concluded.
St. Gabriel downs, LLC has filed an application with the LSRC for a racetrack facility in Iberville Parish on La. 30. In order for the racetrack to be licensed, there must be a local referendum passed authorizing racing in Iberville Parish.
The process to call such an election now calls for the legislature to authorize the election, and then the Racing Commission requires the local governing body in Iberville to hold the referendum. That body would be the Iberville Parish Council.
Only after that referendum is held, will the licensing authorities move the process forward. The track will be under the jurisdiction of both the Louisiana State Racing Commission and the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.