Letter from President Mike Campbell Posted On:Mar 07, 2011 | Posted By:Glen
Dear Fellow Horsemen;
In January, I asked Executive Director Glen Berman to report to the Illinois Racing News concerning the legislative events of SB737 slots at tracks which occurred during the lame duck session. I was so disappointed for our membership that I could not find adequate words to express the feelings of loss for our industry.
For a decade and a half, I was lead to believe by senior legislators that if our fractionalized industry could come to a consensus on its needs, that leadership and the General Assembly would pass legislation that would enable our industry to help itself.
So, I chose to be a candidate for President of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. I was ultimately honored by the ITHA membership to be your voice, your horsemen association representative, with a goal of bringing about consensus to pass a bill for "Slots at the track" ending recapture and saving our industry.
Relative to that understanding, the ITHA Board made a significant contribution in terms of forming an alliance amoung different breeds, i.e. Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, ITHA and Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association. This alliance also had to deal with other stakeholders, all of which held adverse opinions in bringing about the right solution, i.e. horsemen rates, etc.
Problematic to any stakeholder agreements were revenue sharing agreements with municipalities where tracks were located, surrounding municipalities, and home rule issues in Arlington Heights.
Arlington Park, Hawthorne, Fairmount Park, Quad City Downs, Maywood and Balmoral all had to be brought on board.
Five sovereign horsemen's groups ITHA and Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) South, Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation (ITBOF), IHHA Standardbreds and Quarter horse racing in Madison County, all came to a consensus.
ITHA leadership initiated a sliding scale with a low of 12.75% to a high of 26.5% of Adjusted Gross Revenue. This scale was ultimately agreed to by all principal parties after months of negotiations.
ITHA financial analysis projected an increase of $60-80 million in additional purse revenues and the
elimination of recapture.
This additional revenue will double current purses, provide substantial funding for the ITBOF, and re-establish the Illinois breeding program.
Senate President John Cullerton had, in no uncertain terms, mandated all stakeholders to support an expanded gaming bill which included five new boats and slots at tracks.
With no other options offered, the ITHA and other principal parties (horsemen and track managements) proceeded to lobby both houses of the General Assembly.
The ITHA Board took our message to Governor Quinn on three different occasions. We also met with the Senate President on multiple occasions and also conveyed out plight to the Speaker of the House, Michael J. Madigan.
When called upon, the entire memberships of the ITHA, HBPA, and the IHHA rallied in support of SB737.
There is no question that your collective voice was heard! This pro-racing legislation passed committee, moved to the Senate floor and passed 31-29. SB737 was then held over to gain additional support in the weeks leading to the lame duck session.
Mike Campbell, Glen Berman, Chris Block and Lanny Brooks personally lobbied representatives as did the IHHA and track managements. Our roll call clearly indicated that passing SB737 was within reach and that our bill would be called soon after the income tax bill.
As our horsemen know, bill sponsor Representative Lou Lang refused to call our bill resulting in an ever worsening environment for Illinois racing. I share your disappointment. I am aware of your frustration and I understand how Illinois horsemen must feel abandoned by their own Illinois General Assembly and the Governor.
However, we must not quit: we must not fail. The ITHA Board has given its commitment to better this industry. I assure you that as this Association's leader, the ITHA Board, Executive Director and President intend to win this one.
My directive to ITHA lobbyists is to pursue every avenue in passing pro-racing legislation and ending recapture.
Early in February, Senate President Cullerton met with horsemen and tracks to express his disbelief at the failure of SB737 to be called for a vote in the House.
He congratulated the horsemen's groups for their lobbying efforts in support of SB737.
President Cullerton once again reminded us of his responsibility to pursue untapped revenue resources for the state which include gaming. Estimates suggest that fees for licensing, position fees, and bids for boat locations could be $1.4 billion in additional revenue to Illinois.
The President of the Senate has committed to personal involvement to move this Bill.
However, it will be our industry that provides the army of foot soldiers that is more effective.
So, let's pick ourselves up off the ground, dust ourselves off, and agree to go forward so that we can leave a legacy of success for our industry.
Believe in yourselves because I believe in you, the horsemen of Illinois, who are the finest people I know.