Horsemen Continue Our Advocacy to
End Recapture, Enhance Purses,
and Guarantee Live Racing
Illinois Lawmakers Heading Into Overtime Session
|Mike Campbell, ITHA President |
Dear Fellow Horsemen:
Illinois lawmakers are heading into what likely will be an extended overtime session and our efforts to advocate for horsemen priorities in the forthcoming gaming legislation continue.
Though May 31 officially marks the end of spring legislative session, the Democratic majorities in the General Assembly have not yet reached agreement with GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner on the terms of a budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. They are expected to continue their discussions through June and perhaps beyond.
The weeks to come are expected to be highly contentious. Gov. Rauner has maintained that lawmakers must approve elements of his Turnaround Agenda before he will agree to new revenue in the coming fiscal year. Democrats have responded that the Turnaround Agenda should be considered separate and apart from the budget, and they have urged the governor to focus first and foremost on working with them to resolve the budget deficit. (The revenue shortfall in the coming fiscal year is estimated at more than $6 billion.)
Gov. Rauner's political operation reportedly is planning to launch a campaign in support of his agenda, and Democrats are girding for battle. Illinois owners and trainers must remain focused, organized and proactive.
It's unlikely lawmakers will approve the gaming expansion legislation before first reaching agreement on the budget. That means any time remaining before the budget is resolved is time for us to continue pressing for our objectives. As horsemen, we must seize this opportunity to continue educating state lawmakers about the work of horsemen, our role in supporting the racing industry, and the value that we provide for Illinois taxpayers.
We must remind policy makers that Illinois tracks are in position to host slot machines and potentially also table games solely because of their association with horse racing. As I noted in my recent op-ed published in the Daily Herald, any legislation authorizing tracks to offer such games absolutely must:
- Require that tracks use the agreed percentage of that revenue to improve the size of purses.
- Immediately end the egregious recapture subsidy permitting Arlington Park and other tracks to divert dollars from horsemen's purses.
- Guarantee minimum live racing opportunities.
When an end-of-session deal finally emerges, there is good reason to believe that gaming expansion will finally occur. Indeed, gaming expansion - and the revenue that it will provide for public services - could be an integral part of the budget solution.
Over the last week, I was in Springfield together with principals of all the major horse racing stakeholders. We took action to ensure that an increase in thoroughbred breeder awards (from the current 11.5 percent to 20 percent) will be part of the ultimate gaming expansion package. (We secured industry-wide agreement on this concept in 2013, and again took the lead to reconfirm that industry-wide agreement so that the bill drafters would include the increase in the still-evolving gaming expansion amendment.)
The ITHA's legislative team in Springfield will continue to promote our interests as the coming, uncertain process unfolds. The ITHA remains cautiously optimistic that the time is ripe for us to achieve our critical legislative goal.
We look forward to keeping you apprised of important developments as they occur.
As always, I'm proud to serve the finest horsemen I know.
Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association