ITHA meets with Illinois Casino Interests and Legislators Posted On:Dec 24, 2011 | Posted By:Glen
On Monday, December 19, ITHA President Michael Campbell, Executive Director Glen Berman, Board Member Chris Block and lobbyist Steve Morrill attended a meeting between Illinois casino interests and the Illinois horse racing industry. Senator Terry Link (D-Waukegan) and Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) convened this meeting, which was also attended by representatives of the two Republican caucuses and the Office of the Governor.
Link and Lang described the meeting as the first in an anticipated series of get-togethers designed to hopefully produce gaming expansion legislation that could both pass the General Assembly and secure approval by the Governor. It was acknowledged that Governor Quinn presently opposes "slots at tracks" as part of any gaming expansion legislation, and the discussion centered on what alternatives, if any, might be an acceptable means of preserving and promoting horse racing in lieu of "slots at tracks." Link and Lang remain committed to passing a gaming expansion bill that benefits Illinois horse racing.
During the meeting, the horse racing industry representatives reaffirmed their support of, and commitment to, "slots at tracks." The Illinois casino interests in turn suggested a very modest (and wholly inadequate) subsidy, coming solely from an impact fee on only the newly authorized casinos in a gaming expansion bill, and not from existing ones. The legislators, along with Gary Hannig on behalf of the Governor, suggested that any subsidy plan should probably include impact-fee participation from existing casinos. Other than stating their respective positions, no progress was made toward any agreement.
Very candidly, it may not be possible for the Illinois casino and horse racing interests to find common ground, but ITHA is committed to participating in all forums in which potential support for the Illinois horse racing industry is discussed. ITHA remains committed to our three goals: (a) immediate elimination of recapture; (b) guarantee of a minimum number of live racing opportunities; and (c) sufficient additional support for purses. ITHA has supported "slots at tracks," in the form of SB 744 and SB 1849, as a means of achieving those three goals. Illinois horsemen have experienced the inadequacy of subsidies -- from the persistent non-reimbursement of recapture amounts despite statutory directives to the contrary, to the non-appropriation of the 15% impact fee that was levied on the 10th casino licensee for the statutory benefit of horse racing -- and we believe "slots at tracks" is a far more solid way of achieving horsemen objectives than a traditional subsidy.
Link and Lang urged the casino and horse racing interests to begin thinking "outside the box" in an effort to break the current impasse between the two groups on an agreed gaming expansion measure. The two legislators threw out a variety of ideas worthy of potential discussion, and urged the casino and horse racing representatives to begin bilateral discussions. Link and Lang also expressed an intention to convene periodic meetings between casino and racing interests and involving representatives of the four caucuses and the Office of the Governor. ITHA well understands the urgency of action to safeguard the future of our industry, and will keep the membership apprised of any significant developments.
Serving the Finest People We Know, the Horsemen of Illinois,