Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This is not donkey information, but is something that was sent to me, & really caught my attention. This is just part of the article, but it gives enough information to lead me to believe they should be paying more taxes.

Tax Haven
Arizona racing operations like Tucson Greyhound Park enjoy 15 years of subsidies
by Tim Vanderpool

* Susan Via: "I'm not sure that encouraging more gambling is a great idea in a time of economic collapse and hardship. And I'm not sure that subsidizing a dying recreational industry is where Arizona wants to go."

Few things have dodged the budgetary ax this year, as conservative Republicans milk a rare opportunity to gut the social contract; everything from education to prenatal care has been on the block.

But somehow, one local welfare project seems to have avoided this fiscal bloodbath.

For nearly 15 years, Tucson Greyhound Park and other Arizona racing facilities have gotten an almost-free tax ride, thanks to the generous citizens of our fair state. This largesse dates back to 1994, when American Indian casino gaming began eating into profits at Arizona's dog and horse tracks. As a hedge against further losses, lawmakers created a tax exemption for simulcast-race wagering, allowed the tracks special deductions for capital improvements and instituted a "hardship tax credit," which often allows them to avoid paying any taxes at all.

Opponents of greyhound racing don't think these tracks deserve any breaks whatsoever—especially when crashing state tax revenues threaten vital services. "It's outrageous," says Joan Eidinger, publisher of the Phoenix-based Greyhound Network News. "We're closing schools, and the taxpayers are subsidizing this?"

According to the Arizona Department of Racing, in fiscal year 1995—the last year before the subsidies took effect—the state received nearly $9 million in revenues from horse and dog tracks. In 2008, because of the exemptions, that sum shrank to about $430,000. A 2007 review by the Arizona Office of the Auditor General revealed that exemptions and tax credits for the racing industry cost the state $44 million in revenues between 2001 and 2006.

In fiscal 2008, according to the Department of Racing, Tucson Greyhound Park pulled in a cool $16.2 million in wagers, and kept $3.4 million of that—while paying nothing in parimutuel betting taxes.

A call to park manager Tom Taylor for comment was not returned. But Susan Via has plenty to say about TGP's free ride. She heads Tucson Dog Protection, which last year spearheaded a South Tucson ordinance to improve the treatment of dogs kenneled at the park. Via says these tax credits and exemptions simply prop up a fading sport.

"If the voters are really concerned about raising adequate revenue for the state of Arizona, stop giving breaks to this industry," she says. "Make them pay their fare share on simulcasting. That's three-fourths of their revenue, and they pay zero taxes on it."

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