02/02/2004 12:00AM

Illinois denies funds to NJC

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In a meeting Monday, the Illinois Racing Board denied the National Jockey Club a 2004 recapture award. The decision is a blow to the National Jockey Club and could complicate the organization's relationship with Hawthorne Race Course, with whom the NJC merged last year.

Recapture, a contentious issue in Illinois racing, arose with the advent of full-card simulcasting during the mid-1990's. The provision allows racetracks, through a mathematical formula based on 1994 live handle figures, to deduct money from purse accounts each year, ostensibly "recapturing" profits from live handle lost to full-card simulcasting.

It is the board's responsibility to certify recapture amounts based on the formula and submit the amounts to the Illinois Legislature. The 2003 recapture awards, payable in 2004, include $3.9 million for Arlington and $2.9 million for Hawthorne, but the NJC was left out.

The NJC previously ran race meets at Sportsman's Park, but Sportsman's closed two seasons ago, and the NJC formed a loose merger with Hawthorne and conducted its race meet there last spring. The board ruled that since the NJC no longer raced at Sportsman's, there was no 1994 base by which a recapture amount could be calculated. Further, the NJC, in the eyes of the board, no longer has a wagering facility, an essential component for an "organization licensee," in this case the NJC, to qualify for a recapture award.

The NJC and Hawthorne oppose the board's position, believing that recapture is a "portable" entitlement, and that the board should use Hawthorne's 1994 handle figures as a base for determining the 2004 recapture amount. Patricia Bidwill, chairwoman of the NJC, said a lawsuit would be filed in district court appealing the board's ruling.