Internet Gambling Issues Add to Illinois Rift

State's horsemen question gaming legislation that would not contribute to purses.

In what figures to be an issue in many other racing states, Illinois horsemen are questioning proposed legislation to allow Internet gambling in the state that they say would not contribute to purses.

The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association believes recent overtures by Arlington Park management to the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation may be an end-around move to push through Internet gambling in the state without a provision to support race purses. The ITHA believes the proposed legislation will reach the state Senate floor next month and the group said it wants to make sure racing is protected.

Arlington Park and the ITHA do not have an agreement in place for the upcoming meet scheduled to start May 3. The Illinois Racing Board currently recognizes the ITHA as the horsemen's representative in the state and has mediation measures in place if an agreement is not reached 30 days before the meet.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Arlington Park reached out to the ITBOF with an offer that would pay state breeders an additional $800,000 that had been going to the ITHA, with $600,000 earmarked for breeding and stallion award incentives.

ITHA executive director Glen Berman believes the move may be an effort by Arlington to divert horsemen's attention from the Internet gambling proposal that would allow state tracks and advance-deposit wagering companies to offer Internet gambling. Arlington Park is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., which also owns ADW provider

"In the middle of the negotiations on the contract, the new gaming bill comes out and it has Internet gaming in there now where each track gets an Internet gaming license and each ADW company gets an Internet gaming license. And nothing goes to purses. Zero," Berman said. "We're concerned about that.

"I think they would prefer not to see us in Springfield making sure that horsemen's purses get money from Internet gaming and making sure that the gaming bill that we've already negotiated and been sitting on for three years now doesn't have any last minute changes. I'm guessing Arlington would rather see someone else who has not been so involved in this process."

Berman also said that in negotiating a racing agreement for the upcoming meet that horsemen are concerned about language they believe will allow Arlington to charge stall rent at this meet or in the future. Arlington Park general manager Tony Petrillo was not available for comment March 29.

Earlier this month, Illinois governor Pat Quinn vetoed a bill that would have allowed slot machines at racetracks. Sen. Terry Link is revising that bill to address issues brought up by Quinn in the veto. On March 27, a Senate committee passed a revised gambling bill that would include the previously proposed casinos and slots at racetracks while also allowing Internet gambling and slot machines at Chicago airports.