Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (11/23/11)
Illinois gambling market not saturated according to report
Little mention of job creation in study
HINSDALE, IL – According to an independent study by the Innovation Group, Illinois has room to expand gambling with slot machines at racetracks providing the best outcome for the state.
The report looked at the original gambling bill that included five new casinos and slot machines at racetracks. Innovation also investigated two scaled back versions in which racetracks did not contribute with slot machines. The study shows that Illinois will generate the most attendance and revenue under the largest expansion plan which includes slots at tracks.
The horseracing industry also points to data that it has collected which shows that even after the expansion, Illinois will have a lower per-capita ratio of positions per person than all of its neighboring states.
“This report clearly shows that there is room for growth,” said Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association President David McCaffrey. “However, the study did not even look at the very significant impact of jobs that will be created and brought back from other states.”
Illinois has bled tens of thousands of horseracing jobs to states like Indiana, Delaware and Pennsylvania in the last decade. Racinos are not a new concept. Fourteen other states permit horse racing tracks to have slot machines. Those states clearly understand the economic impact of agribusiness.
Horsemen point to better purses in those states that are supplemented by slot machine revenue. Many horsemen who have shuttered breeding and training farms are ready to reopen for business if Illinois allows them to compete fairly with other states.
“We’re talking about a huge economic infrastructure that supports 30,000 working men and women in Illinois,” said McCaffrey. “Horsemen don’t want to leave their homes. They don’t want to pack up their families and move to a new state because Illinois can’t get its act together.”
McCaffrey points to blacksmiths, veterinarians, grain and hay farmers, truck and trailer dealers as well as trainers, drivers, grooms and a host of other jobs that rely on the horseracing industry for employment.
Without slots at tracks, tens of thousands of jobs will be lost as well as millions of dollars in revenue to the state.
The Governor has supported a version of the legislation that proposes casino subsidies for the horseracing industry instead of slot machines. While this would mean less competition for other casinos, it is a bad bet for the state of Illinois as it does not provide the agricultural relief that downstate communities desperately need.
The horseracing industry has seen subsidies from the hostile casino industry tied up in court for years, leaving the horsemen to race for a pittance compared to other states. Slot machines at tracks would allow horsemen more control over their business without the fear of decades of litigation that the casino industry would surely pursue.
“Including slots at the racetracks is imperative to putting Illinoisans back to work,” said McCaffrey. “If the Governor includes slots at the tracks, he includes downstate agribusiness.”