As many states experience a decline in horse racing culture — with some even closing tracks — the sport continues to be a significant industry in Arkansas. The state holds races with the purpose of promoting the registered Arkansas-bred thoroughbred program. With so many different owners, breeders and stallion owners, keeping track of the information was becoming an onerous task. Additionally, ensuring that the various stakeholders were paid accordingly was a time consuming responsibility.

To automate this process, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) launched an online service for the Arkansas Racing Commission and the Arkansas Thoroughbred Breeders’ & Horsemen’s Association (ATBHA) that tracks and reports winners during the state’s thoroughbred racing seasons.

The ATBHA works with the Arkansas Racing Commission to maintain the rules and regulations of the Association and the Arkansas-bred program. This includes distribution of the Purse and Awards Funds to owners, stallion owners and breeders of properly registered Arkansas-bred thoroughbreds.

“Before, it was a management nightmare and very cumbersome,” said Cathy Heath, director of project management for Arkansas.gov, the state's e-government partner, responsible for creating the new system. “The new service streamlines the whole process for the owner, breeders and stallion owners. It tracks the race winnings and it calculates what the award should be.”

Under the old system, award recipients could wait from one race season to the next to receive a paycheck, given the various rules and the complexity of the process. Award amounts are calculated based on a formula from the Racing Commission. Depending on the recipient’s role — owner, breeder and/or stallion owner — the payout is different. Additionally, if there are multiple owners, the formula changes. Previously, the ATBHA would have to verify -- via various spreadsheets and databases — that the races and horses match. There were multiple data entry points, making consistency a challenge and leaving many opportunities for human error.

“Part of the reason that the DFA approached us was because they wanted to make sure that the state was in compliance,” Heath said. “A lot of the calculation was done manually, so it was harder to track. This new system sets up checks and balances, and we’re able to see the work being done. The ATBHA has an audit that they have to go through, and in the past that audit process might take up to a year. Now the audit process takes up to a couple of hours.”

The new system, for which no tax dollars were appropriated, stores information on about 525 people and 750 horses. The ATBHA will be able to re-use and edit data for horses, breeders, owners and stallion owners, who participate in four in-state races sponsored by the ATBHA: the Rainbow Stakes, Rainbow Miss Stakes, Nodouble Breeders Stakes and Natural State Breeders Stakes.

According to the ATBHA website, the Association pays $25,000 of the $50,000 guaranteed purse for each race. The funds come from nomination fees paid by the nominating horse owners, entry and starting fees, and the Arkansas Racing Commission Purse and Awards Fund, established to promote and develop thoroughbred horse breeding in the state.

With funding coming from multiple places and checks being distributed at varying amounts to different stakeholders, the new system is multi-faceted. In the 1,200 hours that were dedicated to this project, Arkansas.gov created a system that:

•    uses role-based user authentication, which allows for real time, secure, data access;

•    calculates monetary awards for horse owners, breeders and stallion owners;

•    generates award payments;

•    creates 1099 forms; and

•    allows for award verification prior to generating payments.

“This system just went into production this year,” Heath said, adding that stakeholders are pleased with the new system. “We’ve got the checks ready to go, which is several months ahead of schedule.”

Jessica Renee Napier  |  Contributing Writer

Jessica Renee Napier is a California-based writer who began her journalism career in public broadcasting. She teaches yoga, enjoys traveling and likes to stay up on all things tech.