John Greiner Published: September 22, 1982

A second petition, which included a county-option feature, was filed by the horsemen in August 1980, paving the way for Tuesday's vote.

Last June, the opponents of the gambling proposal dropped their attempts in the state Supreme Court to block the election, and Gov. George Nigh then set it for a vote on Tuesday's runoff primary election date.

SQ 553 provides for a seven-member Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission with one member from each congressional district and one at large member.

The at large member must be someone knowledgable of racing. No member can own an interest in a track or a horse running under a commission license.

Commissioners would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate.

The Legislature would have to provide funds to operate the commission.

The commission would supervise, regulate and control all pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing in Oklahoma and make rules and regulations for licensing persons to operate a pari-mutuel race track or race meeting.

The proposal provides for a 10 percent tax on admission tickets.

Revenue from this would go to the city in which the track is located.

If the track isn't located in a city, the taxes levied on admission tickets will go to the county in which the track is located.

The petition also provides for a tax of 12 to 18 percent on the proceeds from the sale of pari-mutuel tickets. The tax would be divided between the state general fund, the track and the purses that would go to the owners of winning horses.

The Legislature would decide the exact tax on the proceeds.

The petition's backers estimated the state could receive up to $3.5 million in taxes in the first year with just one track operating.

Horsemen said 31 states have legalized pari-mutuel racing and are receiving economic benefits in the form of increased business for the private sector and increased tax revenue for state government.

They estimated the value of racing to Oklahoma's economy would be $500 million a year.

The major opposition to SQ 553 has come from the Anti-Crime Association of Oklahoma, which counts among it members several religious denominations including Baptists and Methodists whose leaders called on their ministers to urge church members to vote against the proposition.

Opponents said gambling would be bad for the state economically, morally and spiritually.

They also said the Legislature could change everything in the petition because it isn't allows pari-mutuel by virtue of a state statute and not a constitutional amendment. BIOG: NAME:

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