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Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association

Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (5/16/13)

Internet Gaming Plan Has Returned, With No Benefit for Horse Racing

Internet Gaming Proposal Will Lead to Demise of the Illinois Horse Racing Industry and Cost Thousands of Jobs

Worse than Recapture: Tracks and advance deposit wagering operators owe their existence to horse racing, but the proposal would allow them to have casino-style I-gaming without offering a dime for horse racing

Senators should amend plan to require tracks and ADW operators to share internet gaming revenue with purses

Statement from Mike Campbell, President of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association

The Illinois Senate removed an Internet gaming plan from a larger gaming expansion bill after Illinois horsemen objected to allowing tracks and ADW operators to offer Internet gaming without sharing any of that revenue with purses.

But this week in Springfield, the same Internet gaming proposal has re-emerged as stand-alone legislation. Yet again, this proposal would authorize tracks and ADW operators to host poker and other casino-style games online - positioning them for a windfall of revenue - and would not require them to share a dime of that revenue with purses.

Where is the dedication from billionaire track owners and ADW providers to horse racing and the Illinois ag economy? Unless this Internet gaming proposal is amended to provide fair compensation for purses, this legislation will virtually ensure the prompt transformation of Illinois tracks and ADW companies to casino gaming empires - leaving horsemen shortchanged, reducing Illinois racing opportunities, and jeopardizing the livelihood of thousands.

This proposal is still in draft form but is intended as an amendment to Senate Bill 7. It could become that bill or manifest itself as an amendment to another bill sometime prior to May 31, the scheduled adjournment of the General Assembly's spring session.

All three major horsemen groups in Illinois - the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association, and the Illinois Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association - oppose this effort to transform tracks and ADW providers into casino gaming empires while providing no benefit for horse racing, the hard-working men and women who make horse racing possible, or the more than 35,000 jobs that Illinois horsemen support.

We support allowing tracks and ADW providers to operate Internet gaming as a means to support purses. But tracks would earn this gaming privilege solely because of their association with horse racing. Generating 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.

Illinois horsemen have called on senators to amend this proposal (whether it is appended to SB 7 or another bill) to require tracks and ADW providers to share Internet gaming revenue with purses. Unless this plan is amended accordingly, it threatens to radically diminish Illinois horse racing 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.

Other Gaming Expansion Measure

The larger gaming expansion bill, SB 1739, would authorize tracks to operate slot machines and would require tracks to share a portion of that revenue with purses. It also would require tracks to offer a minimum number of live racing opportunities, but only if the tracks earn revenue from operating slot machines - the number of racing opportunities is directly linked to slot revenue.

But if tracks are allowed to operate Internet gaming as contemplated by the additional proposal, they will have no incentive to build and operate the racinos authorized by SB 1739. That means no construction jobs, no permanent racino jobs, no local capital investment, and no benefit for horse racing. If tracks opt to focus solely on Internet gaming, there will be no additional funds for purses and no minimum racing opportunities.

If both SB 1739 and SB 7 become law, why wouldn't tracks focus only on Internet gaming?

Building and Operating a Racino (SB 1739) Launching Internet Gaming (SB 7)
Estimated $100 million in capital investment No capital investment
$40 million license fee (non-refundable) $20 million license fee (may be deducted from future taxes)
Millions of dollars in machine maintenance and employee expenses Minimal maintenance expense
Guaranteed live racing No guaranteed live racing
Approximately 15% of AGR diverted to purse account No sharing with purse account
Horse racing thrives, suporting more than 35,000 jobs statewide in Illinois agriculture Horse racing decimated

Illinois Horsemen Committed to Horse Racing

Illinois horsemen have long stood by tracks as they sought to offer slot machines to enhance purses and make Illinois horse racing more competitive. As Illinois tracks have noted in recent years, the scope and quality of Illinois horse racing has already suffered because horsemen naturally migrate to states offering higher purses.

But now that they recognize the vast potential of Internet gaming - which they could launch with no capital investment - they propose sharing none of that revenue with purses.

Illinois horsemen will continue to advocate for the interests of the hard-working men and women who make horse racing possible. We will fight for continued racing opportunities, and we will fight to protect and enhance purses.

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