Illinois Approves Maywood ADW License

Decision by racing board came over strong objections of horsemen groups July 25.

The Illinois Racing Board, over the strong objections of horsemen groups, approved an application from Maywood Park July 25 to act as its own Advance Deposit Wagering licensee.

The sometimes acrimonious testimony between the harness racing association and horsemen threatened further difficulties in the future as the industry seeks longer-term enabling legislation for ADW.

The current law requires that tracks obtain the consent of horsemen if they conduct ADW through third-party licensees, giving the horsemen leverage to negotiate a share of the revenue.

All four racing entities in the state have operated that way in the past.

The law does not, however, require horsemen's consent for a track to operate its own ADW system.

Harness horsemen, upset with Maywood's proposed revenue sharing plan, earlier this year threatened to withhold consent for a third-party agreement. Maywood then reapplied to the IRB, arguing it runs its own ADW. Staff agreed with that contention and recommended approval of a license for the harness operation.

Representatives of the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association noted any split of revenue between horsemen and the track comes after ADW-related expenses. They argued licensing Maywood would permit it to load charges onto its own ADW operation, rather than paying a contractual and verifiable amount to a third-party operator, and effectively cut them out of the revenue stream. Glen Berman, executive director of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, agreed.

"This is just an end run around getting horsemen's consent," Berman said.

IRB chairman William Berry said the law, backed by staff interpretation of the facts, made it clear that Maywood's application was in order. He supported a motion to approve, which passed on a vote of 6-2, with one member voting "present."

The issue is important, in part, because ADW is by far the fastest-growing segment of pari-mutuel wagering in Illinois.

Berry urged the parties to try to work out their differences before the legislative session in November, when the industry will be seeking an extension of ADW authorization that expires at the end of the year. "We have to have a permanent ADW bill," Berry said.

The dispute also threatens a united effort to win approval of a statewide gaming expansion law that would permit slot machines at tracks.

The board also approved the fall stakes schedule for Hawthorne Race Course, which scaled back the purses for most of its stakes. Two stakes for Illinois-breds were accorded small increases. The track also pushed its signature fall event, the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II), from its normal October date to Nov. 30.