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Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association

Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (4/16/13)

Gov. Jim Edgar: "ITHA Has Done a Great Job"

ITHA: Arlington Park's Pursuit of iGaming Windfall, While Proposing No Benefit for Horse Racing, Contradicts Arlington's Position for the Last Decade

Statement from the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association on Gov. Edgar's Endorsement of the ITHA and Arlington Park's Refusal to Share Internet Gaming Revenue with Purses

In advance of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association membership meeting on Saturday, April 13, former Gov. Jim Edgar - a Thoroughbred owner and ITHA member - provided the following statement to ITHA.

"I want to express my appreciation for the great job that Mike Campbell and the other members of the ITHA board have done in Springfield during the past months. It is a difficult atmosphere in Springfield these days trying to get anything done. But the ITHA has done a great job in making sure the concerns of Illinois Thoroughbred horsemen are heard in the halls of state government," Gov. Edgar said.

The ITHA thanks Gov. Edgar for this endorsement, and for his longstanding support of ITHA's advocacy on behalf of Illinois horsemen.

As ITHA members know, the ITHA, the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association, and the Illinois Horsemen Benevolent & Protective Association are calling on the Illinois Senate to amend Senate Bill 1739 to require track owners and ADW providers to share Internet gaming revenue with purses.

For a joint statement from the ITHA, IHHA and HBPA, click here. Additionally, for a detailed description of the ITHA's policy position from Directors of the ITHA Board, click here.

Under the current version of SB 1739, which is backed by Arlington Park, tracks and advance deposit wagering (ADW) providers would be entitled to licenses to operate casino-style games over the Internet and would not have to share a dime with purses.

Arlington Park's pursuit of this Internet gaming provision, which would provide no benefit to horse racing, directly contradicts Arlington's position for the last decade - that Illinois should authorize tracks to operate casino-style games as a means to supplement purses and therefore help Illinois horse racing more adequately compete against horse racing in other states.

As recently as March, Arlington General Manager Tony Petrillo issued a statement saying that "with the competition for horses from other states and with the continual decline of the horse population it is necessary at this time to do everything thing [sic] we can to increase field size, increase handle and increase purses."

Indeed, Illinois horse racing has struggled for years to compete against horse racing in other states, which allow their tracks to offer casino-style gaming to supplement purses. By enhancing purses, those states make horse racing more competitive. They attract horsemen to race, grow the breeding industry, and support thousands of jobs in agriculture.

Arlington, however, is not acting to protect the future of Illinois horse racing. Under the Internet gaming proposal that Arlington supports, Arlington would share nothing with purses.

Unless SB 1739 is amended to require tracks and ADW providers to share Internet gaming revenue with purses, the proposal threatens to radically diminish Illinois horseracing and, in the process, cost thousands of middle class and lower-income workers their jobs, harming the best interests of the state of Illinois and its taxpayers.

The ITHA fully supports allowing tracks and ADW providers to offer casino-style games online as a means to support purses. But let's remember that tracks and ADW providers would earn this gaming privilege solely because of their association with horse racing. Generating additional revenue to bolster purses - to save horse racing, preserve jobs, and support Illinois agriculture - is the entire point of letting tracks and ADW providers venture into casino-style gaming.

When this revenue supports purses, Illinois horse racing will more adequately compete against racing in other states. And when horsemen stay and race in Illinois, they support not just the people who will directly lose out if the legislation is not changed, but also more than 35,000 jobs throughout the Illinois ag economy, from veterinarians to feed and hay suppliers.

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