12/03/2013 7:25PM

Illinois legislature fails to take up racetrack funding bill


Senate Bill 66, which would resolve the Illinois Racing Board funding issue that continues to imperil the 2014 Illinois racing season, was not called for a vote during a session of the Illinois legislature on Tuesday.

The legislature convened in a special session and passed long-awaited major legislation that would reform the state’s pension system. Caught up in that action, legislators had no time or attention left to deal with a bill that must be passed by Jan. 31 to avert sharp cutbacks in the Illinois racing schedule.

The legislature is scheduled to meet for just one day, on Jan. 29, before that deadline. If legislators fail to pass the bill, Hawthorne could run only 15 days in 2014, and Arlington just 49.

The bill authorizes the extension of account wagering in the state and provides a satisfactory funding mechanism for the Illinois Racing Board, which had a revenue stream cut off for about five months earlier this year when account-wagering law was allowed to lapse.

When the legislature met in regularly scheduled November session, two competing amendments – one from Arlington, the other backed by all the other entities in Illinois racing – were introduced to the bill. Legislative leaders demanded industry consensus before calling the bill, and on Nov. 20, after a long negotiating session the day before, the Illinois Racing Board announced an official agreement among all stakeholders had been formed to present to the legislature.

The bill would extend account wagering for three years and provide board funding through a 0.2 percent surcharge on all winning wagers placed by any means – at a racetrack, an off-track betting parlor, or through an account wager – in the state.

Among a handful of other provisions, the agreement also would permit a voluntary additional 0.5 percent surcharge by racetracks, account-wagering providers, and off-track betting parlors on winning wagers. Wagers at Illinois off-track betting parlors already are subject to a mandatory surcharge, while racetracks can impose a voluntary 1 percent surcharge on winning wagers, something Arlington and Hawthorne have chosen not to apply.

Industry leaders have expressed strong optimism since the consensus agreement was reached that the legislature would easily pass the bill once taken up. But time is running out, and the racing industry here must hope nothing unforeseen gets in the way of the legislature taking up and passing the measure in late January.

Walter More than 1 year ago
There is an important point not covered in this situation. It's extremely possible the Casino Industry lobby efforts are also hard at work. It's in their best interest for racing in Illinois to go away. First, it lowers the amount of money casinos have to pay in subsidies to Illinois racetracks. Secondly, if racing goes away, the potential for tracks to get slots also goes away, casinos won't have that potential competition. Expanded gambling in the US has just put more nails in the coffin of horse racing. It's sad but true.
wolves More than 1 year ago
CDI/Arlington want Hawthorne to disappear so they can get "host" money year-round. It seems to me that this "disagreement" between tracks is a diversion put up by CDI, in an attempt to put Hawthorne out of business. Churchill/Arlington must be delighted that Springfield won't take up the Bill until the end of January. How many stables are going to ship out of town instead of waiting until the last minute to find out if Hawthorne is going to race or not? Even if the Bill passes, there won't be enough horses stabled at Hawthorne to fill the races......just as Arlington hopes.
Nancy Spence More than 1 year ago
I agree that the IL legislature is filled with morons. However, more attention and press needs to be generated towards the general public, as most people have no idea that the entire industry could collapse. I'm already bracing myself for the bill not even being brought up for a vote on Jan. 29th.
robert More than 1 year ago
This IL racing waffling debacle is murdering new and old fans. A very sharp friend at work (who is about half my age) was just getting into handicapping and betting on Twinspires.com. But then he had to stop completely when IL suspended online wagering in early '13. I recently asked him if he had followed the Breeders Cup and was back wagering online after it resumed in IL in the summer? Ha, of course not -- he had moved to online fantasy sports leagues. Racing lost a valuable future income stream.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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Darrell Peck More than 1 year ago
your in the wrong forum for scams, these people here are hardened horse players, too bad that these scams can't be squashed sooner.
Trent More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure if anyone else commenting here lives in IL, but these morons in Springfield have no clue how to get ANYTHING done, and racing will certainly be last on their priority list. Looks like it's going to be a sad year for IL racing. Shame...
Walter More than 1 year ago
Why would ADWs be able to charge and additional .5 %? What overhead do they have? I think ADWs are putting racing out of business. They make large profits and do not pay their fair share to the improvement of the business.
Jeffrey More than 1 year ago
Racing is putting itself out of business, not the ADW's. If you paid attention to the industry you would notice that many ADW's (and by logical extension, racing fans) are being priced out of existence through signal hikes and new source market fees. In some cases, horsemen have tried to force people back to the tracks by outlawing in-home wagering. This has proved disastrous as the people will not return to the tracks in today's era of convenience gambling and player rewards. Look what happened in Arizona after they outlawed the ADW's. One track (Yavapai Downs) was forced to close and handle plummeted. Now Turf Paradise charges an alarming 20.75% (plus breakage) on a simple win bet. The reason I returned to this game after a 12 year hiatus was the availability of legal ADW's. The onerous takeout (along with high concessions, parking, admission, past performances) discouraged my play and I took up online and live poker. However, when I learned about Twinspires and other ADW's, I gave the game another look. The convenience of playing online has stopped some of the bleeding and allowed unprecedented easy access. Furthermore, your highest volume customers were ALREADY receiving sweetheart deals without the knowledge of average racing fans. The tracks see fit to let whales and computer batch bettors get rebates, but only object when average fans are given a modest price break through free racing forms, promotions, and rewards programs. It sounds sad, but I am already anticipating the day I am forced to leave the game. Maybe you won't personally miss me, but I am an opinion leader amongst my friends and have brought at least a dozen people into this game. It's not that I object to horsemen and tracks making a lot of money - I think it's a fabulous thing! I used to work in the racing industry and understand the costs associated with putting on the game. However, any fool who has studied introductory economics understands that it's suicide to raise prices when there is lower demand. There is a way for racing to grow the sport by attracting new fans and reclaiming ones who left for other games (or in many cases, offshore books that pay the industry nothing). I would start by identifying a problem that needs to be solved (customer needs) and figuring a way to profit by solving that need. Unfortunately, racing has done a lackluster job of trying to compete in today's marketplace and has seemingly thrown in the towel, deciding that customers are irrelevant unless they patronize casino operations or generate 1 million/year in handle.
Walter More than 1 year ago
I agree with much of what you say. My point is that ADWs should not be afforded the ability to charge an additional surcharge to bettors. They do bring a lot of money into pools, however they profit handsomely by a flawed model that is the fault of racetracks. My only goal is look out for horseplayers, since that is what I am. When multiple entities such as tracks, OTBs, ADWs, state and federal Gov'ts are attempting to increase takeout and decrease our ability to win, it is an issue for me and all other horseplayers.
Ray More than 1 year ago
1:9 it passes
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The fix is in its not going to be called for a vote. Putting AP/CDI competition out of business. Then slots at the track next year
Dave Frizzell More than 1 year ago
I cannot believe the cavalier attitude with which this major issue is being handled in the State Legislature. Thousands of lives and millions of dollars in revenue are hanging in the balance. The historic racing industry in this state is in serious peril and apparently it is not that important to those in power.