Judge Hears Arguments in Recapture Lawsuit

Statement from Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association,
Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association,
Illinois Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association
Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation

Attorneys for Illinois horsemen and breeders presented arguments last week in a case that, if successful, will produce a significant boost in thoroughbred and standardbred purses.

At issue is the state's failure to reimburse the horsemen's purse accounts after tracks remove dollars from those accounts, under a practice known as recapture, to subsidize their own operations. State law clearly states the Illinois General Assembly "shall appropriate sufficient funds" to reimburse the purse accounts for the amount of recapture taken.

Our litigation is aimed at getting the purse accounts at all three tracks reimbursed for the approximate $11 million removed from them in 2017. If our suit is successful, the purse accounts would be made whole while the racetracks' income would be unaffected. In short, it would be a win-win for the entire industry.

At last week's hearing, the judge was well prepared and had performed his own research on the history of the Horse Racing Act. He appeared to be concerned about the practical implications of the failure by the state to replenish the purse accounts - a failure that is contrary to the purpose of the act, which is to provide economic support to the horse racing industry and, by extension, value for the taxpayers of Illinois. That being said, the judge also seemed to grapple with whether the term "shall appropriate" means the General Assembly was required to make annual appropriations.

Tracks rely on the statute when they sweep dollars from the horsemen's purse accounts. Horsemen and breeders are simply asking the court to ensure that the state also honors the law by making those accounts whole. We do not know at this point how the judge will rule in this case but we are encouraged that he is giving the arguments due consideration. We are positive about one thing: we must do everything we can to substantially increase purses.

The judge indicated he intends to issue his decision by the end of July.