Illinois Tracks Officially Get Casino Money

Illinois Tracks Officially Get Casino Money
Photo: Four Footed Fotos
Arlington Park was awarded more than $7 million.

The Illinois Racing Board June 25 formally allocated $23 million in casino money to the state's racing interests amid hopes it will bridge a financial gap until a broader gaming expansion bill is approved.

The money is from legislation approved years ago that allocates a percentage of some casino revenue to tracks and purses. Racing's cut was about $115 million, but the money had been sitting in an escrow account because of legislative inaction.

When it became clear the spring legislative session would not produce a broader gaming expansion, including authorization for slot machines at tracks, racing interests agreed to accept $23 million, with the remainder of the $115 million going to a school infrastructure fund.

IRB chairman William Berry noted the decision to accept a small percentage of the money owed was a tough compromise but the best deal racing could get.

"We do have a compromise," Berry said. "We're grateful that action was taken in that regard."

Berry said, however, he hopes a racetrack gaming bill becomes law this year.

The money allocated by the IRB is divided between racetrack operating accounts and purse accounts according to a formula laid out in the law. Arlington Park was awarded more than $7 million, divided almost equally between the track and purses; Hawthorne Race Course, $4.15 million with a roughly equal division; Fairmount Park, $1.53 million to the track and $790,000 to purses; and the rest split among harness tracks, fair meets, and Quad City Downs, an Arlington-owned off-track betting facility that no longer conducts live harness racing.

The IRB also formally licensed three advance deposit wagering firms to operate in Illinois. ADW became illegal Jan. 1 when the General Assembly failed to renew authorizing legislation.

The same bill that authorized distribution of the casino money also reauthorized ADW when it was signed into law June 7.

The three ADW providers–TwinSpires.com, TVG, and XpressBet.com–had been operating since June 7 on temporary licenses. The companies paid about $62,000 in back taxes on wagers they accepted between Jan. 1 and the time they shut off their Illinois accounts. Those wagers, technically illegal at the time, were blessed retroactively by the legislation.

With revenue from ADW flowing again, the IRB also approved applications from the Springfield and Du Quoin state fairs, as well as the Brown County Fair, to conduct pari-mutuel wagering on their harness races this summer. The IRB deferred action at its May meeting, fearing a failure to restore ADW authorization would leave it without funding to regulate the addition racing dates.

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