Columbus, OH --- The Illinois State Journal-Register is reporting that racing at the State Fairs in Springfield and Du Quoin is in jeopardy because no firm has bid on operating the pari-mutuels and running the meets, but that the contract may be re-bid by state officials now that some horse owners are finally receiving purse checks from last year’s races.
Alternatively, the Illinois Racing Board has suggested that racing continue, but without betting.
The newspaper reported that some owners have recently received purse checks. The “slow pay” has been blamed on budget woes in the state. The Illinois Department of Agriculture recently asked the state’s controller to settle $17 million in outstanding debts, including purse payments.
Jack Kelly represents Balmoral Park and Maywood Park, which have operated the two meets for the past few years. He was quoted as saying, “One of our concerns was that the horsemen haven’t been paid. We didn’t want to be locked into something that all of a sudden was not going to happen.”
Mark Laino is the executive director of the Illinois Racing Board. “Pari-mutuel taxes no longer cover the cost of regulation,” Laino said to the newspaper. “Racing has been in such a decline. The handle is half of where it was 15 years ago. Revenue follows handles. We’ve been in discussion with the department. There’s been discussion of a non-pari-mutuel meet.”
The Board, which has suffered layoffs in recent weeks, will meet later this month to discuss that possibility.
The newspaper also reported that the number of horses staked to races at Springfield and Du Quoin have dropped from 620 to 398, from 2008 to this year.