Bo Derek probably didn’t get upstaged much during her heyday in the 1970s and ‘80s, when she was one of the world’s most recognizable sex symbols. But when her name
goes before the Senate Rules Committee Wednesday morning,
she’ll likely be overshadowed by another appointee to the
California Horse Racing Board.
That appointee would be the board chairman, Keith Brackpool.
Neither actually has to show up for the hearing, but
Brackpool now finds himself in the middle of a bitter
fight over AB 2414, a bill authored by Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, that would make huge changes in horse
race betting in the state — including authorizing a kind of betting that reminds
some of the complex financial instruments that nearly
brought down the economy two years ago.
Brackpool is a former appointee in the Gray Davis administration,
and a major player in past water battles in the state
via his company, Cadiz Inc. But it’s his lead role in crafting horse racing legislation
that has some privately wondering if he could face
a confirmation battle. Meanwhile, opponents of the
bill have launched a late-session ad buy in an attempt to stop it.
According to Brackpool’s financial disclosure forms filed with the Fair Political
Practices Commission, Brackpool owns several horses
through a company called Brackpool Racing LLC, but
the board’s executive director rejected suggestions of potential
conflicts between Brackpool’s dealings and his role on the Horse Racing Board.
A Democrat, Brackpool was appointed to the Board by
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in September. The Board
elected him chairman in January.
Brackpool has long been associated with water issues.
His company, Cadiz, has been a player in the Southern
California water market. For years, it tried to interest
the mammoth Metropolitan Water District (MWD) in a major water storage plan in the Mojave Desert,
but MWD rejected that idea in 2002. Davis appointed him to the Governor’s Commission on Building for the 21st Century in 1999. In 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported that Susan Kennedy,
Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff and Davis former deputy chief, was
paid $120,000 in consulting fees by Cadiz the year before, when
she was also serving on the state Public Utilities
Perez, D-Los Angeles, authored AB 2414. The bill has been focused on horse racing since he
introduced it in February. It was heavily amended on
Aug. 20, just days from the end of the legislative session
and past the date where the revisions could get major
One key component added to the bill is exchange betting.
This is a type of betting that allows players to essentially
bet against a horse, or bet that a horse will finish
in a particular spot in a race, or take innumerable
other possible positions. Unlike traditional betting,
where the track provides odds on particular horses,
the house merely facilitates complex bets between willing
parties. People can stake out positions and even sell
them to others bettors prior to a race.
Brackpool could not be reached by press time. But the
executive director of the Board, Kirk Breed, said that
the exchange-betting concepts within the bill had been presented
during at least three board meetings over the last
several months, including the most recent meeting on
“All of these items have been bought up,” Breed said. “All of the stakeholders were involved.”
That includes Magna Entertainment, he said, now the
key opponent of the bill. The company owns the popular
Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields horse tracks. It
has taken out newspaper ads calling the bill, “A loser you can bet on.” It calls the bill “a last-minute backroom deal,” and is accompanied by a photo showing the backsides
of several horses and jockeys during a race. Attempts
to reach Magna representatives on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
“They were involved in all those discussions all throughout
the process,” said Stephen Burn, the chief American-based executive of Betfair, a British company that
is a key supporter of the bill.
Not so, said Robert Hartman, general manager of Golden
Gate Fields, who countered that there was never the
idea raised of putting exchange wagering into the bill.
"I was at the meeting August 19 meeting," Hartman said. "There was never a conversation
regarding exchange wagering. In the past there was
some discussion on the topic. But there has never been
any lengthy exchange regarding to specifics of exchange
He said his company is wary of the practice, because
in the two countries where it has been tried, the Great
Britain and Australia, jobs have been lost in the track
industry. He added that Magna has been happy with Brackpool’s performance as chairman, and he did buy the idea
that Brackpool led the charge to add exchange wagering
into the bill. In fact, Brackpool had said at meetings
that they should not add major new provisions to AB
"This was a clean bill until a week ago," Hartman said.
"I’m not exactly sure what happened, but we feel blindsided."
Betfair bought TVG, an American company which provides
gaming technology, in January 2009. It brought Burn over from the British operation in
February to run TVG.
The company has been heavily involved in the British
version of exchange betting. Everyone seems to agree
that the practice increased horse-race betting in Great Britain, and brought in younger
bettors — a key problem in horse racing, which is suffering
from an aging fan base.
In fact, according to a Republican caucus analysis
opposing the bill, between 1998, when exchange wagering was first allowed, and 2008, “purse revenues” went up 54 percent. Track attendance went up 10 percent, the number of horses in competition increased
19 percent, and the number of races jumped 26 percent.
But Republicans have a number of other problems with
the bill, most notably that it “seeks to implement a major policy initiative with only
one week left in the legislative session….This bill is the antithesis of transparency and open
They also object to portions of that require “exchange wager licensees to enter into agreements with
labor unions to provide collective bargaining.” The analysis goes on to say the bill would create
15 new public sector union jobs, which it calls a “buy-off” to “big labor.”
There are other, generally less controversial portions
of the bill. The bill aims to bring the prestigious
Breeders’ Cup Championships to California more often. This two-day event changes venues each year. The 2009 races were held in California — ironically, at Magna’s Santa Anita Track. It also has provisions that would
increase the payout to winning bettors, something seen
as a key incentive to bringing more people to the track.
“I think people recognize that there is a bit of a crisis
in the California horse racing industry,” Betfair’s Burn said. “We need to find a way to increase purse size.”