Samuel Clemens, or Mark Twain, is supposed to have quipped, “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Kentucky because it’s always 20 years behind the times.”

While Kentuckians may take exception with such an unflattering description that is over a century old, those in the enterprise of breeding and racing horses are likely to concur that a majority of state elected officials have succeeded in keeping the Commonwealth’s racetracks two decades behind the leading-edge of competition. The irony is that breeding and racing horses is a potent economic force in Kentucky.

The recently released study by the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Horse Council, titled “2012 Kentucky Equine Survey,” estimated that of the 242,400 horses in the state, 54,000 were Thoroughbreds and 9,500 were Standardbreds, plus an unspecified number of Quarter Horses that are bred for racing. Horse racing (breeding not included) accounted for almost 42% of the projected $2.91 billion economic impact from equine activities. The equine sector employed approximately 40,665 people (32,022 full time) and paid $134 million in taxes to the state.

Contributions of this magnitude would strongly suggest that the people’s representatives in state government would long ago have done what is necessary to foster and enhance an industry that employs so many of their constituents and generates a significant stream of tax revenues for the benefit of all Kentuckians. Yet that has not been the case with respect to Kentucky racetracks, where owners and executives have watched, waited, and waited some more as racing venues outside the Commonwealth have legalized casinos and racinos.

As a result, the state’s racetracks are many years behind in terms of what they can offer to customers. In this limited regard, Twain’s observation has been inexplicably and painfully documented by the evidence.

Copyright © 2013 the Blood-Horse. Used with permission.