07/07/2017 1:56PM

Illinois budget doubles funding for owners' awards

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – The Illinois state budget passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday night not only restores about $1.8 million in Illinois owners’ awards payments that weren’t made available the last two years, it doubles them to about $3.67 million, according to a press release from the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which helped lobby the legislature.

Illinois’s state government has gone without a budget for nearly two years mainly because of an impasse between the Democratic-led legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, but Rauner’s veto of a fiscal-year 2017 budget was overridden Thursday in the House. Racing interests lobbied to restore the owners’ awards payments and were successful in making them an item in the budget that passed.

Illinois-bred horses racing in open company are paid purse bonuses. State law requires these owners awards to be paid even if the legislation doesn’t fund them, and lacking state funding for the last two years, the awards have been deducted from tracks’ purse accounts. In theory, the state reimbursing the purse accounts for the awards would free money that could be used to increase overnight purses, but details regarding how the money might be used and the mechanism for its distribution still were being ironed out Friday.

The restoration of state funding also should serve to increase purses in Illinois-bred stakes races, though there are none left on the Arlington stakes schedule for this meet. The budget that passed extends until the next fiscal year begins next summer, which means the money made available to Chicago racing covers the rest of this Arlington meet, Hawthorne’s fall and spring meets, and the first two months of Arlington’s 2018 meet.