Springfield, IL --- The Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association today applauded the passage of Senate Bill 744. The bill passed the Senate this past Tuesday evening and now moves to Governor Quinn’s desk. Horsemen implore the Governor to sign the bill.
In what has become the final charge for survival, the entire horse racing industry helped to craft legislation intended to put Illinois horse racing on even footing with other racing states. It was introduced this session by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and passed the Senate under the sponsorship of Sen. Terry Link (D-Lincolnshire).
The bill would allow horse racing tracks to install a limited number of slot machines to boost sagging purses and keep up with other horse racing states. This follows a trend adopted by virtually every racing state except Illinois.
“We are hanging on by our fingernails,” said David McCaffrey, president of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association. “Illinois hasn't kept up with the times and now we find ourselves at a serious disadvantage. Other states have boosted their purses with slots and Illinois hasn’t.”
Horsemen have been leaving Illinois in droves to race in states such as Indiana and Delaware where the purses are double and triple what they are here. Those purses are what pay for supplies like grain and hay; services from veterinarians and blacksmiths as well as gas, food and workers’ wages.
The addition of slots at race tracks would put Illinois back on even ground with other horse racing states. The hope is that horsemen will stop closing up shop and will come back to Illinois where one of the country’s greatest Standardbred racing cultures has been for a century.
“Illinois can be a top racing state again,” said McCaffrey. “With the larger purses that slots will generate, I’m certain we can again be a successful and premiere horse racing state.”
Over 30,000 jobs rely on horse racing in Illinois -- veterinarians, hay farmers, breeders, trainers, grooms and blacksmiths are just a few who make their living in this industry.
The money generated from SB 744 would go to paying down Illinois’ staggering debt and would also fund the deflated capital bill, education, and many other programs like 4-H and county fairs.