Boosting Illinois Horserace Industry Helps Advance Gaming Bill, Lawmakers Say Posted On:Dec 22, 2010 | Posted By:Glen
Boosting Illinois Horserace Industry Helps Advance
Gaming Bill, Lawmakers Say
(Arlington Heights, IL) – December 16, 2010. Legislation to construct five new Illinois casinos, to boost the number of slot machines at existing Illinois river boats, and to add slots at Illinois racetracks cleared the Illinois State Senate 31-20-2 earlier in December and landed in the House with cautious optimism, based strongly on lawmaker interest to boost the state’s horse racing industry.
“Strengthening the horse racing industry in Illinois and securing the 36,000 agri-business jobs that support it is a key interest among many lawmakers,” said State Senator Louis Viverito (D-Burbank). “Illinois thoroughbred racing has long and valued history in the state and we want to protect it.”
The legislation, Senate Bill 737, would grant the state’s six racetracks authorization to install slot machines---1,200 at each race track in Cook County and 900 slots at tracks outside of Cook, increasing purse prizes by an estimated $60 to $80 million per year. In addition to the larger purses, more investment would be directed to backstretch workers, university research, state, and county fairs, and retired or injured thoroughbred horses.
“The Illinois horseracing industry has been struggling with shrinking prize purses as thoroughbred races shift to other states where tracks have slots machines and offer richer purses,” said Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association President Mike Campbell. “This legislation will put us on an even competitive footing.”
Campbell and his group’s sophisticated lobbying blitz have been key factors in moving the gaming legislation forward, according to top lawmakers.
“Mike Campbell has been the face of the thoroughbred horseracing industry in Springfield and he brings enormous credibility to the process,” said House Deputy Majority Lou Lang (D-Skokie), who is sponsoring the gaming legislation in the House. “Mike’s legislative planning, organization and strategy deserves much credit for the success the bill has enjoyed so far.”
“There is much interest among lawmakers to bolster Illinois horseracing and the agribusiness upon which it rests,” said State Senator Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale). “That interest and work of the thoroughbred horseman have been vital to the bill’s success so far.”
In addition to boosting the horseracing industry, the legislation could generate nearly $1 billion annually for Illinois’ nearly empty treasury and spur economic development and assistance on multiple levels.
Other key bill benefits and features include:
Ø Economic development money for depressed communities
Ø Increased Minority and female hiring
Ø Promoting minority and female contract opportunities of 20% and 5% respectively
Ø Establishing a riverboat in a south suburban location and in the City of Chicago
Ø Financial hold-harmless for existing Illinois River boat casinos
Additionally, bill allocates $200 million to help pay a portion of the state’s $6 billion backlog of unpaid bills, aiming to leverage that money to capture federal matching dollars. A federal capture could top $1 billion.
The Illinois House is likely to act on the legislation when it returns to Springfield in early January.