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Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association

Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (1/17)

ITHA Focused on Successful 2012

Dear Fellow Horsemen:

While Thoroughbred racing in Chicagoland takes a break from January 1 through February 16, the ITHA is hard at work addressing many issues that will affect horse racing in Illinois in 2012 and years to come.

2012 ITHA Legislative Agenda (Slots vs. Subsidy)

The Illinois Horsemen's Coalition: ITHA, HBPA and the IHHA stand solidly with the tracks for passage of HB1849, "Slots at Tracks." Horse racing combined with slot machines is a proven economic engine already at work in thirteen states, and it is evident that Kentucky will soon pass legislation placing “slots at tracks.” Gaming projections for slots machines in conjunction with horse racing suggest that the racing industry in Illinois will benefit in excess of $100 million annually to purses for the combined horse racing industry. Slots at tracks across the United States and Canada have rebuilt North American breeding and racing operations in their jurisdictions. Illinois has become surrounded by competing states that have racino operations contributing to their Horsemen's purse accounts, at the direct expense of the Illinois racing and breeding business.

The success of the new Des Plaines casino is proof that over saturation is not the problem in Illinois. The Rivers casino which opened last July is presently on course to gross $400 million in its first year of operations. Horse racing was to receive 15 percent, or approximately $60 million to be split between the tracks and horsemen. However, no appropriation occurred and the subsidy continues to accrue, $30 million and growing.

The ITHA and the Illinois Horsemen’s Coalition passed SB 744 out of the General Assembly on May 31, 2011 representing the first time in more than twenty years that a major gaming bill had passed both houses. Senate President John Cullerton chose not to send SB744 to Governor Pat Quinn for fear of veto due to the Governor’s regulatory concerns. The big winners with “slots at the tracks," are the tracks themselves. Race track licensees immediately enhance their property values as well as becoming part of the lucrative gaming industry.

It is a shame that after years of debate, unfair riverboat legislation and competing states with electronic gaming that have strangled the life out of this once major market, that SB744 cannot even be given to the Governor for veto or signature. The citizens of Illinois face a tax increase of 65 percent, unemployment rate of 10 percent, huge state deficits and our Governor apparently is balking at gaming legislation that would provide billions in new revenue to the state.

Horsemen’s Subsidy To Purses. Governor Quinn says, “No slots for tracks.”

Repeatedly the Governor says, “No slots for tracks.” Why that is so is not completely understood but the Horsemen’s Coalition cannot afford to turn their backs on a subsidy to purses if key issues can be worked through. Key to any subsidy plan would be equal revenue ($100 million) to that which Slots projections show would have gone to purses.

Second, there needs to be an immediate end of Recapture, a subsidy taken from the horsemen’s purse account going to the tracks. Third, there must be “Guaranteed Live Racing Opportunities” equal to those in SB 1849. Problematic to any casino subsidy is which casinos will participate, what assurances does the racing industry have there will be no interruption of revenue to purses, and the possibility of lawsuits similar to those that delayed for years the release of the last impact fee legislation. Any casino subsidy must go directly to the Horsemen’s purse account, avoiding the need for State appropriation or the possibility of the monies being swept by the State.

The ITHA legislative team, Mike Campbell, Glen Berman and Chris Block, will carefully review all suggestions from the Governor’s staff, including those that think outside the box until the right deal is presented to the Horsemen’s Coalition. The ITHA will support the tracks in connection with the passage of SB 1849 as we did with SB 744. However, the Illinois Horsemen’s Coalition will also actively work in good faith with the Governor’s staff to find a reasonable solution to our industry’s needs.

It is time to close the deal and secure either a subsidy from slots at tracks or a casino subsidy to the Horsemen’s purse account. The horsemen and the tracks must remove their emotional blinkers and do what is right to save this industry for the immediate future and for generations to come.

Michael B. Campbell
President, Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association

Serving the Finest People We Know, The Horsemen of Illinois

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