The Illinois Racing Board Should Focus on Stimulating,
Not Decimating, Illinois Horse Racing
Statement from the Board of Directors
of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association
Illinois horsemen urge the Illinois Racing Board to consider alternative methods of funding the IRB or reducing the expenses of the IRB before taking the extreme step of cutting racing dates as a means of alleviating pressure on the IRB's budget.
Cutting racing dates by 30% at the Chicagoland tracks in 2014, as we understand the IRB is contemplating, will have drastic and likely irreversible consequences for horsemen, backstretch workers and their families, and the integrity of our sport:
The education of the 600-plus children on the backstretch of Arlington/Hawthorne would be severely compromised. The children currently attend school year-around in the Cicero/Stickney school districts even though they begin and end the school year at Arlington. Bus service ensures a consistent school situation for these kids. If forced to move when Hawthorne closes, the children will likely have to go to two or three different schools during one school year.
Backstretch workers would lose their jobs and likely would leave the state for work.
Thoroughbred race horses will leave the state and many will not come back. The horse population at Chicagoland tracks will decline, resulting in shorter fields, less handle, and significantly less revenue to the state and the IRB.
Recapture from less live handle will increase, which will offset possible daily purse increases from fewer racing days.
The Illinois breeding industry will be decimated. It is not feasible to raise and train Illinois breds that ultimately will race just six or nine months of the year.
Illinois owners and trainers, who need maximum racing opportunities to survive in this business, will expedite their migration to other states.
Races at Arlington and Hawthorne rely heavily on Illinois breds to fill their cards. Each race day, there is an average of 1.6 Illinois restricted races. And even among open races, Illinois breds are prominent; on Sept. 19, 2013, for instance, there were nine open races with 40% Illinois breds.
Horsemen have the greatest investment in this industry and have the most to lose by a reduction in race dates.
The ITHA represents the owners and trainers of nearly 2,000 horses stabled at Arlington Park and Hawthorne Racecourse. Horsemen support our sport with an estimated investment of $200 million or more. Our members spend $60 million annually to maintain and train those horses, which must be replenished regularly and which completely turn over every four or five years.
Illinois horsemen urge the IRB to base its decision on dates for 2014 not on its budget considerations but on its mandate for Illinois horse racing: stimulating the growth of the Illinois horse racing industry, promoting the growth of tourism, and encouraging breeding of thoroughbred and standardbred horses in this state.
The Board of Directors of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association: