This week the Senate Gaming Committee advanced the gaming expansion bill - SB 7 (Link) - to the Senate floor. This bill contains the long-agreed slots-at-tracks language, including the so-called “Three R’s” that are critical for horsemen: agreed rates to fairly support purses, live racing guarantees to ensure that tracks remain committed to racing, and the immediate elimination of recapture.
On behalf of thoroughbred horsemen, I testified before the Senate Gaming Committee in support of SB 7. I explained the importance of this bill is to the Illinois horse racing industry, and to all who depend upon it for a living. I described the crisis that our industry faces in Illinois, with grossly inadequate purses, and how that contrasts with other states that support purses through electronic gaming. To personalize the issue, I shared stories of horsemen and jockeys who have felt forced to leave Illinois for better opportunities in other states, and I recalled a time not long ago when Illinois was the fourth leading horse racing state in the nation.
Several Senators spoke up in support of the horse racing provisions in SB 7, and there was express mention that adequate live racing guarantees are critical to avoid tracks abandoning racing in favor of gaming. There was also reaffirmation that the previously negotiated industry language will remain intact, subject only to modifications agreed to by all stakeholders. There will surely be some agreed changes, including ones to reflect that two harness tracks mentioned in the original agreement are no longer in operation.
My testimony concluded with gratitude to Senator Link, President Cullerton and Leader Radogno, and all committee members for their continuing commitment to revitalize our industry.
hile SB 7 continues to be tied to the “comprehensive budget package” in the Senate, it was advanced to the Senate floor this week for a potential vote. The Senate withheld votes this week on the full package to allow additional time to perfect each component of the “comprehensive budget package,” and we will continue our conversations on SB 7 to ensure any changes made are appropriate and necessary for the long-term health of the industry.