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Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association

Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (6/18)

GAMING EXPANSION BILL HAS VERY REALISTIC CHANCE TO BE SIGNED


As ITHA members know, the IL General Assembly approved a long-awaited gaming expansion bill providing for slots-at-tracks. That measure, SB 1849 (Sen. Link / Rep. Lang), passed the Illinois House on May 23, 2012 by a vote of 69-47-2, and passed the Senate on May 31, 2012, by a vote of 30-26-3.

Under the Illinois Constitution, the General Assembly has 30 calendar days in which to present the bill to the Governor, who thereafter has 60 calendar days in which to act (failure to act amounts to automatic approval, the exact opposite of the “pocket veto” provision in the federal constitution).

The deadline for the General Assembly to present SB 1849 to the Governor is June 30, 2012. It is anticipated that the legislature will take all of its alloted time to present the bill to the Governor.

Assuming the Governor receives the bill on June 30, 2012, the Governor will have until August 29, 2012 to act on the bill. With major pieces of legislation, it is common for Governors to take all (or virtually all) the alloted time to act.

Although the Governor has expressed reservations about gaming expansion, and even opposition to specific language in SB 1849, there is reason to believe he may sign this measure.

First, the State of Illinois desparately needs new revenue. Estimates suggest that SB 1849 could generate over $1 billion in new gaming revenues once all gaming expansion components are operational. This new revenue could be used to fund numerous programs, such as Monetary Assistance Program (“MAP”) grants that are important to the Governor. Finding alternative sources of new revenue -- namely, new taxes -- would be difficult at best. On a new revenue basis alone, SB 1849 will have some undeniable appeal to a Governor facing challenging fiscal times.

Second, the Governor has publicly suggested a pathway for earning his approval of SB 1849. Specifically, he has suggested a ban on political contributions from gaming and racing licensees, together with various ethics or regulatory changes to SB 1849, as a possible pre-condition to signing this gaming expansion measure. These items could be addressed in a trailer bill. At this writing, there appears to be growing acceptance to the Governor’s requests by key legislators and stakeholders. So satisfying the Governor’s requests may be possible, thereby affording a clear pathway to approving the gaming expansion framework outlined in SB 1849.

Third, the Governor has consistently expressed his belief that Medicaid and pension reform should preceed other items like gaming expansion. The General Assembly did pass Medicaid reform legislation during its recently concluded spring session, and the Governor has already signed the involved legislation. While pension reform legislation has not yet passed, talks among the legislative leaders and the Governor continue with the expectation that the pension reform bill will ultimately pass this year. So the Governor’s expressed priorities appear on track to be satisfied, openning up the possibility of “secondary” priority items designed to generate new state revenue.

ITHA President Michael Campbell, Executive Director Glen Berman, Board Member Chris Block and others have spent substantial time discussing issues surrounding SB 1849 with the Governor, and they can attest to his strong commitment to preserving Illinois horseracing so that owners, trainers, breeders, jockeys, parimutel clerks and backstretch workers can continue making a living in their chosen field. Governor Quinn truly cares about us.

The ITHA leadership will work closely with the Governor’s staff in doing everything we can to make the Governor’s approval of SB 1849 possible. When the time is right, ITHA members may be asked to send letters to the Governor urging his signature of this important measure. ITHA members are encouraged to contact those legislators that voted “YES” on SB 1849 to express their appreciation for this important effort to save the Illinois horseracing industry. Illinois legislators today confront a host of very challenging issues. It can be a thankless job. Let’s make sure that our legislative allies receive some heartfelt “thank yous” from us on this issue. They deserve it.

Please call the ITHA at 847-577-6464 to sign in to receive information via text. Thank you.

Serving the Finest People We Know,
The Horsemen of Illinois


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