URGENT MESSAGE TO OWNERS, TRAINERS, AND JOCKEYS REGARDING “SLOTS AT TRACKS” LEGISLATION
During the past five months, ITHA vigorously participated in negotiations that produced a historic agreement among Illinois horsemen and track owners on a “slots at tracks” bill. That agreed legislation, contained in House amendments #2 and #3 to SB 3146 (Rep. Burns/ Sen. Trotter), appears to enjoy support from majorities in both the Illinois Senate and Illinois House of Representatives. Unfortunately, Illinois Senate President Cullerton has expressed reluctance to call SB 3146 for a vote in his chamber, mostly because of opposition from some riverboat casinos and their associated State Senators -- and without a commitment to call SB 3146 for a vote in the Senate, the measure is presently stalled in the House, where it is pending on Third Reading (i.e., passage stage). Since the spring legislative session has not yet concluded -- and it will not end until a state budget passes for next fiscal year -- an opportunity may still exist to have this jobs-producing legislation approved this spring. The efforts of ITHA members in contacting their local State Senators and State Representatives will be vital in this regard.
Historic Agreement Reached
Negotiations among Illinois’ six horseracing tracks and representatives of its various horsemen interests, including ITHA and IHHA, successfully concluded this month with an agreed “slots at tracks” bill. The agreed legislation, which was refined to reflect input from key legislators and legislative staff, is contained in House amendments #2 and #3 to SB 3146. Those amendments were unanimously approved on May 7 by the House Executive Committee. Presently, SB 3146 is on the Order of Third Reading in the House, meaning that this agreed bill can reach Governor Quinn in a single session day via majority votes in the House (to pass the measure on Third Reading) and Senate (to concur in House amendments #2 and #3). From discussions with legislators by ITHA and other racing interests, it appears that majorities in both legislative chambers support this agreed “slots at tracks” bill.
The Current Obstacle
Having missed its scheduled May 7 adjournment date, and being presently in recess until the call of the Speaker and Senate President, the Illinois General Assembly is close to concluding its 2010 spring legislative session. The key piece of unfinished legislative business is enactment of a state budget for the 2011 state fiscal year. Sometime this month, when it appears that a state budget resolution has been achieved, the legislature will reconvene for a short time, probably two days. That time period will be our opportunity to pass agreed “slots at tracks” legislation this spring session. To do so, the current reluctance of President Cullerton to call this measure for a vote must be addressed. Hopefully members of the Senate Democrat Caucus -- along with members from all four caucuses -- will become vocal advocates for passage of SB 3146 this spring. Evidently a small number of Senate Democrats have spoken up in support of riverboat interests; it is important that legislators who support SB 3146 also speak out.
Why SB 3146 Should Pass Now
This agreed “slots at tracks” legislation will immediately generate needed state revenue to support both education and the recently enacted capital construction program. It will also preserve and promote Illinois horseracing and related agri-business, an industry that collectively employs more than 37,000 people. In short, in these economically challenging times, SB 3146 produces jobs -- jobs in the classroom, jobs on needed construction sites, and jobs in the horseracing and agri-business industries. ITHA members well understand the central importance of “slots at tracks” to a healthy horseracing industry in our state. It is critically important that all of us communicate the importance of this agreed legislation to our Illinois lawmakers.