Why We Fight For Slots at Race Tracks Posted On:May 17, 2011 | Posted By:Glen
Dear Fellow Horsemen,
There is an old adage that is relevant to the likely closing of Arlington Park if gaming legislation is not passed soon: You don’t appreciate what you have until it is gone.
Since 1927, more than eighty years ago, Arlington Park has been an integral component of Arlington Heights and surrounding municipalities, and is recognized worldwide as the home of the Arlington Million, one of the top turf races in the world.
This historic race track has survived many near catastrophic events including: the Great Depression, World War II, a major fire that destroyed the grandstand, and the advent ofriverboat casinos beginning in 1991, some twenty years ago.
However, it has been recent events that have posed the greatest threat to Arlington Park, the Illinois racing industry, and Arlington Park’s place in the worldwide gaming world as the 3rd largest market for horse racing.
One of the greatest threats to the sport of Illinois horse racing comes from Iowa, Indiana, and twelve other states, which have passed legislation supporting their horse racing industries by allowing slots at race tracks.
The success of race tracks in Indiana and Iowa has been devastating to people in our state whose livelihoods depend on the horse racing industry. From every farmer, breeder, horse owner, trainer, to jockeys, jockey agents and to people that work at the race track.
As the state of Illinois is in the midst of a financial crisis, when unemployment is at a dangerously high level, why shouldn’t legislators take the necessary steps to save an industry? Why let jobs and tax dollars go to Indiana and Iowa, when a single piece of legislation would be so beneficial to our state?
Arlington has been able to stay afloat despite the assault leveled against it by riverboats and legislated benefits to riverboats that have allowed 10 licenses to exclusively control the Illinois’ gaming market at the direct expense of Illinois historic one hundred year old horse racing and breeding industry, threatening tens of thousands agricultural jobs.
I know trainers whose horse owners have demanded that they race their horses elsewhere because of higher purses at other tracks, in neighboring states that benefit from slots and casinos. There are also Illinois breeders, who are abandoning the business altogether or have decided to take their breeding operations to Indiana, Iowa, and elsewhere, where alternative gaming has benefited the breeding program.
While the Illinois legislature drags its feet, neighboring states have taken full advantage of passing legislation to assist struggling state budgets. As recently as January, our General Assembly turned away $1.6 billion in immediate revenue from increased gaming while at the same time raising income tax 65% on Illinois citizens.
This assault was manifested against the best interest of racing, even though it is a direct violation of the Illinois Horse Racing Act which states the following:
(230 ILCS 5/) Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975
(a)Support and enhance Illinois’ horse racing industry, which is a significant component within the agribusiness industry
(b)Ensure that Illinois’ horse racing industry remains competitive with neighboring states;
(a)The General Assembly finds that the Illinois gaming industry is a single industry consisting of horse racing and riverboat gambling
1.“share many of the same characteristics” and are “more alike than different”;
Nationally horse racing still enjoys it’s place holder status as the 2nd highest attended sport but wagering on Illinois racing has precipitously fallen from 3rd to 5th (CA, NY, KY, FL, IL) simply because of interference from neighboring states, legislated benefits to riverboats, and a fundamental failure by local and state government to support the horse racing gaming industry. All this at the direct expense of hundreds of families who simply have chosen to make their living in a field for which they are impassioned and a sport they love.
Most of our membership is aware of the ITHA’s initiative to bring electronic gaming to Illinois racing. The ITHA and other stakeholders have actively lobbied Illinois government senior leadership and the General Assembly to even the playing field by passing legislation allowing slots at tracks. This May and early June could very well spell out the success or failure of the current racing model as we know it. As President of this Association I am asking this membership to continue its support during this critical phase of the General Assembly. The ITHA Board is passionately involved in passing Slots at Tracks legislation, which includes elimination of recapture.
We again thank all horsemen for your commitment to Illinois racing and to all good luck and best wishes from the ITHA.
Michael B. Campbell
Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Inc.