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Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association

Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (9/19)

STATUS REPORT ON ILLINOIS GAMING EXPANSION


As Illinois horsemen are well aware, Governor Quinn vetoed SB 1849 (Link/Lang) on August 28, 2012. While ITHA was obviously disappointed over this action, it did not come as a surprise given the Governor’s frequent public comments regarding his concerns over ethics-related elements of that legislation. Specifically, the Governor has expressed his desire to ban political contributions from gaming licensees, subject any new Chicago casino to the full range of Illinois Gaming Board (“IGB”) oversight applicable to all other casinos, and afford the IGB with the time it deems necessary to vet all license applications rather than require IGB action within strict time frames.

Further, the Governor has indicated a preference for using new gaming revenues to support education at a higher level than contemplated in SB 1849 -- that measure divides new gaming revenues between education, capital projects, state debt repayment, agri-business initiatives, economic development, and compulsive gambling programs.

The Governor’s veto message reflected his previously expressed concerns, and significantly made no mention of slots at tracks. Indeed, ITHA is encouraged that progress on our portion of the gaming bill has been made with the Governor, and we feel cautiously optimistic that a gaming expansion package acceptable to the Governor could be developed that includes the horse racing components of SB 1849.

Here is what the Governor said in his veto message regarding the changes he would make to SB 1849 in order to secure his approval:

“Over the past several years, I have repeatedly made clear that any expansion of gaming in our state must include strong ethical standards, proper balance, and support for education.

While Senate Bill 1849 addresses some of the shortcomings of Senate Bill 744, such as a reduction in the number of gaming locations, it continues to fall well short of the standards of the people of Illinois.

The most glaring deficiency of Senate Bill 1849 is the absence of strict ethical standards and comprehensive regulatory oversight. Illinois should never settle for a gaming bill that includes loopholes for mobsters.

Notably, this legislation lacks a ban on campaign money from gaming licensees and casino managers. We must prevent campaign contributions by gaming operators from infecting our political process.

To protect the public interest, other states have enacted such bans, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana, and our neighboring states such as Iowa, Michigan, and Indiana. The people of Illinois deserve no less.

Senate Bill 1849 also does not ensure clear regulatory oversight over the proposed Chicago casino. This bill does not provide the Illinois Gaming Board with the same regulatory authority over the Chicago casino that it maintains over all other gaming operations in Illinois. Permitting the Chicago casino to operate without the appropriate oversight of the Gaming Board is not good for Illinois.

In addition, this bill does not subject Chicago casino contracts to the Illinois Procurement Code. The bill contains a weak procurement process with many loopholes. Such a complete lack of oversight will leave the Chicago casino’s numerous procurements vulnerable to organized crime, unsavory influence and potentially overpriced vendors.

This bill also does not provide the Illinois Gaming Board with sufficient time to make critical licensing and regulatory decisions. The Gaming Board has a solid track record of keeping corruption out of an industry that is susceptible to nefarious activity.

Furthermore, we cannot forget that Illinois’ economic future relies on the education of our children. This bill does not provide adequate support for education. The budget for pre-school to 12th grade education was reduced by $210 million by the General Assembly this fiscal year and faces more challenges in the immediate future. Any expansion of gaming must prioritize the needs of our students.

I call on the members of the General Assembly to work with my staff, the Illinois Gaming Board, the Illinois Racing Board, the City of Chicago, and all other interested parties to ensure that the final version of any gaming legislation includes strong ethical standards, clear oversight and adequate support for education. Anything short of that is unacceptable and would be a disservice to the people of Illinois.”

At this juncture, ITHA stands ready to work with the Governor, key legislators and all stakeholders to help develop a revised gaming bill that the Governor can sign. ITHA believes that such a bill would preserve the horse racing language from SB 1849 -- that language is the product of long and hard negotiation among all elements of the Illinois horse racing industry, and it strikes a careful balance that would be disrupted with tinkering.

While our preference is for such agreed legislation, ITHA will support a veto override if that is the only option available to us. The Illinois horse racing industry is in dire financial straits, and desperately needs the long-term stability that slots at tracks would provide. All our neighboring horse racing states, and all successful horse racing jurisdictions in this country, allow for racinos. ITHA is committed to securing a long-term, stabilizing solution for our industry through legislation during the current General Assembly, which concludes mid-January with the inauguration of a new legislature. When asked by legislators where ITHA stands, our members can say: “We stand ready to work with the Governor and others on agreed legislation, and our preference is to support legislation acceptable to the horse racing industry that the Governor can sign, but we fully support a veto override for SB 1849 if that is the sole option before the legislature.”

2012 Gaming Legislation FAQ

Serving the Finest People We Know,
The Horsemen of Illinois


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