We Did It: Lawmakers Approve Gaming Bill
Dear Fellow Horsemen:
The day for which we all have waited is near. Over the weekend, Illinois lawmakers approved a plan to permit Illinois tracks to engage in casino-style gaming. They will be required, under this proposed law, to share a portion of that new revenue with purses.
The same legislation also will implement a structure to guarantee live racing. And it will spell the end of recapture.
The House approved the bill on Saturday, and the Senate signed off on Sunday. Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign the bill into law.
We did it, Illinois horsemen. For two decades, year in and year out, we have urged Illinois lawmakers to let tracks offer casino-style gaming for the purpose of boosting purses – and helping Illinois racing compete on a level playing field with other states already doing just that.
Our industry during those years lost thousands of jobs as thoroughbred owners and trainers left this state for the chance to win better purses elsewhere. Jockeys, backstretch workers, blacksmiths, veterinarians, shippers – and so many other professionals whose livelihood is linked to live racing – left, too. Thoroughbred breeding here was decimated.
To be clear, it will take some time before Illinois thoroughbred purses are substantially improved. But when the terms of this new law are fully implemented, Illinois can once again become a world-class destination for thoroughbred horse racing. We look forward to sharing more details, as we have them, specific to the rollout of our state’s new and considerably improved gaming landscape.
We are grateful for the leadership of Speaker Mike Madigan, President John Cullerton, Gov. Pritzker and former Gov. Jim Edgar on this legislation. We also appreciate the support demonstrated by all the lawmakers who voted to help return our sport and industry to its true potential.
Thank you, Illinois owners and trainers, for your patience and continued devotion to our sport and industry. Thank you ITHA Board of Directors for your leadership and steadfast commitment to protecting the best interests of horsemen. And thanks especially to the ITHA staff who worked so diligently to help pass this bill.
As a final note, Illinois horsemen in this legislative session also were successful in persuading lawmakers to allocate, as part of the state budget beginning July 1, approximately $1.7 million to reimburse owner's awards. The absence of such reimbursement from the state would have created a burden on the purse account and we are grateful for the continued consideration.
I’m proud to serve the finest horsemen I know.