01/07/2010 1:00AM

Fairmount to race just three days


Fairmount Park in downstate Illinois near St. Louis will race just three days in 2010, barring an unlikely resolution to an impasse between a labor union and the Illinois Racing Board.

At issue is the number of work days the state will pay six racing officials at Fairmount. When the racing board awarded 2010 dates in September, Fairmount was given a 52-day meet with two contingencies, one stating that the six officials could be paid for no more than 75 days. Last year, an arbitrator required the state to pay the racing officials for 130 days, though Fairmount raced a 57-day meet.

Steady handle declines have shrunk the racing board's revenue pool, and the board took stringent cost-cutting measures in 2009. The board's staff calculates that it costs about $2,210 daily to pay the six officials.

The racing board's executive director, Marc Laino, said negotiators for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees had rejected a board proposal offering an additional 13 days of county fair work, as well as guaranteed health insurance through June 2011. The deadline to resolve the dispute was Jan. 5, and Laino said it was highly unlikely the dates order would be amended.

The situation clearly hurts Fairmount-based horsemen, but with Fairmount's racing season shrinking year by year, and purses falling just as consistently, many stables race as often in Indiana, Kentucky, and Chicago as they do at Fairmount.

Fairmount will host races on April 27, April 30, and May 1. The mini-meet allows the track to continue to keep active its track-operator's license, and make money from simulcasting, account-wagering, and - if the money ever comes - a pending payment from a state-imposed casino impact fee.