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Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (6/1/12)

Contact: Gary Mack,

Illinois horsemen nearer to the finish line

Slots at tracks bill now heads to Governor Quinn

SPRINGFIELD, IL - The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (IHHA) applauds the Senate's passage of SB1849 late Thursday. Passage of the bill is another step toward allowing slot machines at horseracing tracks in Illinois which will boost purse values and help Illinois horseracing stay competitive with other states that have already allowed slots at their racetracks. The House passed the bill last week and it will now be sent to Governor Quinn.

A different gambling proposal passed by both chambers last year was never sent to the governor because of concerns he voiced about oversight and gambling at airports and the state fairgrounds. Legislators, horsemen, labor unions and countless others worked hard to assuage the governor's fears.

"This bill is different than the one passed in 2011," said IHHA president Dave McCaffrey. "I think it will be more palatable for the governor. For example, the bill no longer puts slot machines at the State Fair racetrack but it does still provide funding for the State Fair which was very important for us because so many horsemen race there."

Other agriculture groups will receive desperately needed money including Illinois soil and water conservation, 4-H, Future Farmers of America and county fairs.

The revenue generated for the state cannot be overlooked either.

"This bill will provide the state with almost $1 billion in up-front licensing fees and an additional $400 million in annual revenue," said McCaffrey. "This is not smoke and mirrors. This bill will provide real money right away that Illinois can use to pay down its massive backlog of bills."

It is estimated that as many as 30,000 jobs will be created in Illinois if this bill is signed. Illinois horseracing currently employs more than 20,000 people. Many horsemen have fled the state for places like Indiana where slots at tracks are legal and purses are subsequently much higher.

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