Gaming Bill Re-Introduced at Capitol,
IRB’s ‘Purse’ Legislation Fails to Advance
Legislative Update from the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association
Dear Fellow Horsemen:
On Monday, Jan. 9, and Tuesday, Jan. 10, the 99th General Assembly conducted its final two session days – the so-called “lame duck” session that preceded the inauguration on Wednesday, Jan. 11 of the 100th General Assembly.
As you may have read last month, the Illinois Racing Board put forth a plan ostensibly intended to transfer some of its excess budget money to Illinois purses. The ITHA joined the other Illinois horsemen associations (ILHBPA and IHHA) in expressing our great and unequivocal desire to boost purses while also asserting that any legislation affecting horse racing would bring intended benefits without unintended consequences. In particular, we lobbied to ensure the measure would supplement purses without subjecting horsemen advocacy organizations to potential spending oversight by a state agency – something IRB has advised us it does not intend to do. The three horsemen associations shared clarifying language for SB 3456 in anticipation that language from this bill might be incorporated into a budget package.
The measure as proposed by the IRB would have added two words – “and promotion” – to the language governing the IRB budget; currently, the language only allows spending on regulation. The IRB said it supported SB 3456 to allow it to transfer up to $500,000 – a portion of dollars collected through the pari-mutuel tax – to the horsemen’s purse account.
(It’s worth noting the IRB’s legislation did not make any explicit reference to purses or indicate how these funds might be distributed to purse accounts at individual tracks. The IRB did not solicit input from horsemen prior to rolling out its legislative plan late last year. To our knowledge, Arlington Park is the only major racing stakeholder whose input was reflected.)
The clarifying language shared by the three horsemen associations essentially would have ensured that the transfer of pari-mutuel tax money from the IRB to the purse account would not trigger any unintended consequence. Our lobbying team worked to ensure the legislation would not act to stymie the ITHA’s efforts to effectively represent the interests of Illinois owners and trainers.
Representatives of the ITHA, along with our lobbyists at Morrill & Associates, explained those concerns to the two Senate sponsors – Sens. Donne Trotter and Pamela Althoff – and to the appropriate legislative budget staffers. While no budget package advanced during the lame duck session, the concerns and clarifying language of the horsemen associations were well received. As of this writing, the IRB’s proposal has not been re-filed in the 100th General Assembly.
Also during the lame duck session, the horse racing community received a positive signal from the two Senate leaders that gaming expansion (with slots-at-tracks) will likely be part of any budget package developed in their chamber. Specifically, Senate President Cullerton and Minority Leader Radogno released a budget package that they had negotiated (apart from the House and Governor), with slots-at-tracks being part of the revenue component. This Cullerton-Radogno budget plan represents the first time in two years that either chamber presented a comprehensive budget package that includes both revenue enhancements and business reforms.
This budget plan may eventually serve as a starting point for an eventual agreement to end the long-standing budget stalemate in Illinois. The horse racing language in the Cullerton-Radogno budget package is identical to the prior versions the ITHA and the horse racing community had agreed to during the former Quinn administration. This stakeholder-negotiated language includes the “Three R’s”: guaranteed Racing dates, agreed upon Rates, and the end of Recapture. While it never advanced for a vote, the gaming expansion component to the Cullerton-Radogno compromise remains intact and has just been re-filed as Senate Bill 7. (The process had to "start over" in the new General Assembly.)
Further demonstrating the Senate’s interest in pursuing gaming expansion this year was the creation of a new Senate Gaming Committee for the 100th General Assembly. Clearly, the Senate anticipates an active session on gaming legislation.
The ITHA is thoroughly committed to remaining a strong and effective presence for the horsemen during the just-started 2017 legislative session.
Very truly yours,