Nine-member board will meet in Helena on Tuesday
By BETSY COHEN – Missoulian – 05/06/06
On Tuesday, when serious bettors and racing fans turn their attention to the next leg of the Triple Crown â€” the Preakness â€” Missoula thoroughbred breeder Dale Mahlum will be in Helena launching an effort to resuscitate Montanaâ€™s waning horse racing industry.
At the request of Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Mahlum is chairing the governorâ€™s horse racing task force.
Tuesday will be dedicated to meeting the nine-member board, organizing future agendas and prioritizing issues the task force plans to address, Mahlum said.
â€œWeâ€™ll look at the history of the horse industry in Montana, look at the present state of the industry and see what we can do about its future,â€ he said.
Itâ€™s no secret racing in Montana is on its last legs.
Fifteen years ago, Montana racing pulled in about $15 million in revenue, Mahlum said. Last year, it drew about $1.5 million.
â€œWe are losing big time,â€ he said.
Video gambling is a huge threat, and has taken a big chunk of bettors away from horse racing, Mahlum said. But the racing industry itself could do a better job of promoting the sport.
â€œSo many people donâ€™t know how to place a bet because the industry doesnâ€™t educate people on how to do it and understand the system,â€ Mahlum said. â€œI think the industry is negligent.â€
Montana could also take some pointers from neighboring states, such as North Dakota, Idaho and Washington. Financial incentives are offered to breeders in those states whose horses win races in the state in which they were born.
It means breeders get a percentage of the winning purse and it means bringing small breeding programs back into the fold, he said. â€œIt gives small farms a way to keep going,â€ Mahlum said.
The meeting is at 1 p.m. in the state Capitol.
Anyone who has comments, concerns and ideas that would be constructive in maintaining and improving Montanaâ€™s horse racing industry is welcome to contact Mahlum at: email@example.com.
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