Updated on 01/30/2014 11:27AM

Illinois extends account-wagering into 2017


The Illinois legislature during a one-day session Wednesday passed a bill that will extend account-wagering in the state through Feb. 1, 2017, and allow the state’s racetracks to conduct a full schedule of live racing during 2014. Later in the day, Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill into law.

Had the account-wagering law not been extended, the Illinois Racing Board, which is funded solely through horseracing bets placed in the state, would not have been able to fully administer the sport during 2014, the IRB had said since last fall. If the law had not been renewed and extended by Friday, Jan. 31, racing schedules this year would have been drastically curtailed. Hawthorne, for instance, would have raced just 14 day in 2014, and Standardbred racing would have all but ceased to exist here.

The current account-wagering law was set to expire Friday. The legislation, House Bill 11, first was called for a vote in the Senate on Wednesday morning, passing 47-4. A couple hours later, it passed the House by a vote of 95-10.

The three-year extension means there will be a longer reprieve before the contentious account-wagering issue comes up again. The law also expired on Jan. 31, 2013, and was not renewed last year until June. Different factions within the state’s racing industry have competing visions of account-wagering regulations. The interests of Arlington Park, whose parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., operates the account-wagering platform Twinspires, differ from those, for instance, of Illinois’s harness horsemen.

The bill, in fact, exempts Twinspires from having to provide monthly accounting to horsemen’s groups, a provision that will be imposed on all other account-wagering providers here.

The legislation extends an existing .25 percent account-wagering tax, but also introduces new de facto taxes, called surcharges, that will be borne by horseplayers and are unrelated to account-wagering law. HB 11 mandates bet-takers impose an additional 0.2 percent surcharge on winning wagers and the profits from them, to be split evenly between track operators and purses. It also allows bet-takers to impose up to a 0.5 percent surcharge on winning wagers and the profits from them. The first $100,000 collected from the mandatory surcharge will be deposited into a Quarter Horse purse fund, with all remaining money put into the general horse racing fund.

The law also increases the number of off-track betting parlors racetracks are allowed to operate in Cook County, which contains Chicago, to eight.