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Modernized IRS Rules Keep Millions in Bettors’ Hands

NTRA looks back at first year since update on tax rules on withholding and reporting.

 

In the first year of operations under newly modernized U.S. Treasury and Intenal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations, there was a $307 million reduction in the amount  of winning pari-mutuel wagers reported to the IRS using form W-2G, according to  statistics released today by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA).

This reduction in the amount of winning wagers reported was the result of a dramatic 89% decline in the number of winning tickets flagged for IRS reporting. The declines also led to a $35 million reduction in the amount withheld from bettors’ winnings. The new regulations, which took effect Sept. 28, 2017, recast the Treasury’s definition of the “amount of the wager” to include the entire amount wagered into a specific pari-mutuel pool by an individual rather than the prior IRS standard of using only the base amount of the winning wager.

Based on data provided by CHRIMS, which conducts settlements and other services for many of the nation’s pari-mutuel operators, individual racetracks, and the two largest U.S. totalizator companies–AmTote and United Tote–the NTRA estimates the following nationwide impacts over the first 12 months of operation under the new regulations (10/1/2017 – 9/30/2018 vs. 10/1/2016 – 9/30/2017):

•         The gross amount of winning wagers reported to the IRS on Form W-2G declined $307,700,000 (82%), from approximately $374,500,000 to about $66,800,000;
•         Federal taxes withheld from winning wagers and sent to the IRS declined $35,400,000 (82%), from $43,200,000 to $7,800,000; and
•         The actual number of IRS tickets flagged for W-2G reporting by the IRS declined nearly 89%, from approximately 235,100 tickets to only about 26,350 winning tickets.
From a percentage standpoint, the impacts were equally positive for horseplayers, pari-mutuel operators and horsemen across the country–regardless of the size of the racetrack market. The new regulations also provided positive impacts to advance deposit wagering (ADW) operators and their customers.

“The drastic reduction in the number of winning tickets requiring reporting and withholding is consequential in several ways,” said NTRA President and Chief Executive Officer, Alex Waldrop. “Under the old regulations, it was not uncommon for horseplayers to feel the thrill of ‘winning’ only to have their proceeds reported and/or withheld by the IRS. The old regulations were both unfair and a burden to all involved. A significant overreach by the IRS has been corrected thanks to fair-minded officials at the U.S. Treasury.”

There are numerous specific examples of events where the industry benefited from the new regulations.
On-track at the host venues of the Triple Crown races–Derby Day, Preakness Day and Belmont Stakes Day–the combined number of winning tickets required by the IRS to be reported on Form W-2G fell 96%, with the gross amount of winning wagers required to be reported falling by 87% and the amount of money withheld from pari-mutuel winnings falling 71%. It is likely that similar results were realized nationwide.

On-track impacts were most pronounced at Pimlico on Preakness Day, where the number of tickets requiring reporting fell 99% and the number of tickets requiring Federal withholding fell 100% because there were no winning tickets at Pimlico on Preakness Day that triggered Federal withholding.

On-track at the 40-day 2018 Saratoga Meeting, the number of winning tickets flagged for processing by the IRS fell 96%, the gross amount of winnings required to be reported fell 94% and the amount of money withheld from winning bettors fell 91%.

“The new regulations have been enormously beneficial to every sector of our business,” Waldrop continued. “They would never have transpired without the bipartisan support we received on Capitol Hill and the unwavering support of every segment of the horse racing industry, including thousands of customers who answered our call to action.  Best of all, we will continue to realize the positive impacts from these regulations for many years to come.”

For more than a decade, the NTRA and others promoted legislation to modernize pari-mutuel withholding and reporting. The industry argued that as pari-mutuel wagering increasingly shifts toward exotic bet types like Exactas, Trifectas and Pick 4s, more winning wagers are being reported and more winnings withheld, creating an unfair burden on bettors, pari-mutuel operators and state and federal governments.

Then in 2014, the NTRA developed a new strategy that relied on regulatory, not statutory relief from outdated regulations. Following the new strategy, the NTRA was able to convince the Treasury Department and the IRS to expand the definition of the phrase “amount of the wager” to include the total amount bet on a single ticket (or through an ADW) by an individual into a specific pari-mutuel pool. This one simple change in the Treasury regulations that took effect on September 28, 2017 has led to the significant benefits reported today.

Through September of this year, U.S. wagering has increased 3.95% ($336,724,709) overall while average wagering per race day has increased 7.67% ($180,231), according to statistics provided by Equibase.

 

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NTRA Provides Updates on Industry Issues

An NTRA legislative briefing held Thursday, Aug. 10 at Fasig-Tipton Sales Paddocks provided updates on a diverse range of topics impacting Thoroughbred breeding, racing, and handicapping.

NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop and Greg Means, principal and CFO at The Alpine Group, which represents the NTRA and the industry’s lobbying interests in Washington, D.C., provided updates on a range of topics, including:

Federal Withholding & Reporting – Long-sought Treasury and IRS regulations that modernize federal withholding and reporting of pari-mutuel winnings have resulted in a 90-95% reduction in the filing of IRS Form W-2Gs. The changes have led to a drastic reduction in the reporting and withholding of winning wagers, which in turn has helped fuel handle increases. During the first six months of 2018, overall handle increased 5.5%. Average handle per race day in 2018 has increased 8.7% through June (vs. a 3.7% gain in all of 2017). Overall, U.S. pari-mutuel handle in 2018 is on course to exceed $11 billion for the first time since 2010.

Tax Reform – The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that became law in December 2017 contains a number of incentives that promote investment in Thoroughbred breeding and racing. Among the many positive changes included in the bill were:

•    An increase in immediate expensing to 100% and expansion of the definition of “new property.” Buyers would be able to write off 100% of all horses purchased, including breeding stock, as long as the asset purchased has not been previously owned by the purchaser.

•    An increase in the Section 179 limit to $1 million from $500,000, and an increase in the cost of property subject to the phase-out to $2.5 million from $2 million, which would be beneficial to industry participants that generate net taxable income.

•    Inclusion of a new 20% deduction for certain pass-through business income. Owners of businesses such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, trusts and S corporations now may be able to deduct 20% of their qualified business income when filing their tax returns. Qualified business income includes domestic income from a trade or business but does not include employee income, capital gains, interest and dividend income. Additionally, business owners can combine their businesses into a single unit to claim the benefit, thereby making the process of filing more efficient and less costly.

Waldrop stressed the importance of each taxpayer consulting with his or her tax advisors to assess how the bill will specifically affect their operations.

Sports Betting – The Monmouth Park/New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Supreme Court victory put horseracing at the epicenter of sports betting. It also extends the industry’s reach from online wagering under the Interstate Horseracing Act–space it has occupied since 2000–into a vast new area of the American gaming market, where sports betting is estimated to be a $400 billion business. While the primary activity since the Supreme Court decision has been at the state level, Means noted that the major sports leagues, in particular, are already advocating on Capitol Hill for a uniform federal bill aimed at consumer protections, among other issues. Means projected that it is unlikely that Congress will consider any legislation on this topic this year. However, the issue will likely arise in more force in 2019. Both Means and Waldrop noted that Thoroughbred racing must be aggressive in defending its interests relating to Sports Betting and be ready to take advantage of new opportunities on Capitol Hill should they arise.

Credit Card Transactions Involving Advance Deposit Wagering (And, Potentially, Sports Betting) – While many banks permit Visa and MasterCard credit cards to be used in funding an Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) account, up until this year four of the largest banks that are significant card issuers have refused to allow this legal use. In January, JP Morgan Chase, the nation’s largest issuer of credit cards, began allowing this activity and the NTRA continues to work with the three other large banks to secure a reversal of their exclusions.

The same challenges to ADW wagering may affect those who seek to fund sports betting accounts via credit card, meaning that those in our industry who offer ADW and sports betting will have multiple banking issues.
On the same front, ADW wagering is being blocked by search engines such as Google that do not readily turn up direct links to horseracing betting sites, but simply link to informational stories about wagering or horse races. The advent of sports betting will change this landscape rapidly, again posing potential threats–and opportunities–for the Thoroughbred industry.

Immigration – There is strong disagreement on Capitol Hill over Immigration policy. Efforts earlier this summer to pass immigration bills failed and it is unlikely that Congress will take any major action on Immigration prior to the November elections. Thoroughbred trainers continue to face major labor shortages due to a lack of H-2B visas available to backstretch employees. While comprehensive immigration reform will be necessary if Thoroughbred racing is to receive the relief it needs from the current guest worker program, Waldrop and Means acknowledged that such reform is not likely to occur in the near term due to the current political environment in Washington.

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