Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (9/26/12)
Contact: Gary Mack, firstname.lastname@example.org
Association fronts money for State Fair purses
Horsemen can't afford to wait for state to pay
HINSDALE, IL - The Illinois Harness Horseman's Association (IHHA) today announced that they will provide money to horsemen who won purse money at the Springfield and DuQuoin State Fairs this year. In years past, horsemen have had to wait for several months for their payment and this year, they may have had to wait until December or beyond, to be paid for races run in August.
"We understand that the state has a lot of fiscal problems right now," said IHHA President David McCaffrey. "However, our horsemen bought or raised their horses, they bought hay and grain to feed them, they fueled up their trucks to get the horses to the track to compete in races. Quite simply, horsemen need to be paid their purse earnings now so they can continue to operate their businesses and support their families. The IHHA has the ability right now to front that money while the state catches up on its bills and we're happy to do it. The state will reimburse us eventually. The IHHA can wait a couple months for that money. Horsemen don't have that luxury; their horses need to eat."
Harness racing at both the Springfield and DuQuoin State Fairs has a rich, long history and is a major yearly attraction that helps boost attendance by bringing people to the fairgrounds to watch the races. The State of Illinois provides the money for purses which in turn attract horsemen from across the Midwest. Many horsemen need the money from the winnings to reinvest into their businesses or pay their bills.
"Because of the impact fee money, the IHHA is able to step in and provide prompt purse payments and we're glad we have that ability," McCaffrey said. "We may not be in such a position a few years down the line but we'll help while we can."
Illinois horsemen have been holding on to their livelihood by a thread as other states with horseracing modernize by adding slots at racetracks drawing horsemen, horses and bettors out of the state. The IHHA is hopeful that legislation will be passed soon that will allow horsemen to compete fairly with other horseracing states by adding slot machines at racetracks which will boost purses levels and rejuvenate the sport in Illinois.