The Birmingham Racing Commission, the regulatory organization that oversees the Birmingham Race Course Casino, this week distributed more than $4 million in funding to Jefferson County and Shelby County charities, schools, hospitals, fire departments and municipalities as required by law based on percentages of revenue .
The City of Birmingham received $766,217.56, the largest amount, as 19 percent of the net commission revenues must be allocated to the sponsoring municipality of Birmingham Race Course Casino.
“This is the largest annual distribution we’ve ever done,” said Dr. Lewis Benefield, a Montgomery veterinarian and president of the Birmingham Race Course, a family business that his father-in-law, Milton McGregor, bought in 1992. McGregor died in 2018. McGregor’s family, including Benefield and his wife, Cindy, has continued to operate the Birmingham Race Course and VictoryLand in Macon County.
Since 1992, the Birmingham Race Course has paid more than $120 million in state and local taxes, Benefield said.
The key to recent revenue success, in addition to coming out of the pandemic, has been the popularity of the 996 parimutuel betting machines on the main floor of the Birmingham Race Course Casino, Benefield said. Bettors wager on historical horse races from a database of real races held in the past 15 years across the country.
Most bettors choose to play randomized bets on the colorful machines, although they can bet based on information about the real horses and jockeys. The real names of horses and jockeys are shielded until after a bet is completed, then the full race or the end of it is shown on video on the machine, with the results revealed.
The machines are all based on real horse races, and they are not bingo or slot machines, Benefield said.
“There is no bingo here,” I said. “We’ve never had bingo here.”
The first parimutuel machines were installed in 2019, and have helped the casino transition from the end of live greyhound racing in 2020. Betting on live races remotely, called simulcast racing, still takes place as well.
At the charity awards event on Thursday, officials from schools and agencies attended to get pictures with oversized replica checks their organizations received. The real checks had already been mailed several days before.
Bobbie Knight, president of Miles College, came by to accept a check to Miles for $120,981.72. Miles Law School got a matching amount.
The University of Alabama system got a check for $302,454.30.
Jefferson State Community College got $120,981.72, while Lawson State and Bessemer State each got $80,654.48.
Fire departments in Jefferson and Shelby Counties got checks ranging from 609.55 for Adger to $23,061.79 for Center Point.
Checks to municipalities include $1,571.76 for Adamsville and $9,509.04 for the City of Homewood.
School boards received a total of $685,563.08, including Jefferson County Board of Education getting $202,507.62; the Shelby County Board of Education getting $116,446.77; and Birmingham Board of Education getting $120,937.90.
Other recipients of funding included The Prescott House, United Ability, Children’s Hospital, The Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (Birmingham), the YMCA, March of Dimes, Gateway Family Solutions, The Clay House Children’s Advocacy Center, Birmingham Urban League, Inc. , Department of Alabama Youth Services, Cooper Green Mercy Health, Alabama Symphony Orchestra and Shelby Humane Society.