By Bob Kieckhefer
Advance-deposit wagering will be illegal in Illinois effective Jan. 1, 2013, because the General Assembly has failed to renew enabling legislation, the Illinois Racing Board ruled Dec. 18.
The IRB had expected the legislature to extend the law during its recently concluded veto session. It did not. Lacking legal authority to conduct ADW after the end of the year, the board rejected applications from the existing licensees.
The board also, however, voted to give staff the authority to approve temporary licenses should the General Assembly act during the first week of January, before newly elected lawmakers are sworn in, and should Gov. Pat Quinn sign the legislation.
"I have no explanation why ADW was not called to the floor," said IRB chairman William Berry. "I expect if it is passed on Jan. 3, it will be signed quickly by the governor."
IRB staff said between Jan. 1 and the time new licenses are approved, Illinois residents will not be able to wager legally through any ADW sites.
Berry stressed there are no problems with any current licensees and all of their applications are in order. He said they will not be required to submit new applications or fees when the law is renewed.
The board also heard an optimistic report on this fall's outbreak of neurological equine herpes on the backstretch at Hawthorne Racecourse.
State veterinarians said the disease appears to be running its course and they are hopeful restrictions can be lifted soon.
"We feel we've turned the corner," said Hawthorne assistant general manager Jim Miller. "Our main concern is getting a clean bill of health on the backstretch at Hawthorne and getting the quarantine lifted."
But, he added, "There is not a major rush. We'll err on the side of caution."
Several tracks have announced they will not accept horses that have been stabled at Hawthorne during the outbreak and state veterinarian Dawn Folker said it is likely to "take some time even after the quarantine is lifted "for other tracks to open their barns to Hawthorne shippers."
"Having been through this, I understand that," she said. "I wouldn't wish this on anyone."
But, she added, once the outbreak has run its course, there is no greater medical reason to fear spread of the disease from Hawthorne-stabled horses than from any others. All horses, she said, are carriers of equine herpes and an outbreak can happen anywhere.
The board also approved a 2013 meeting schedule including meetings in conjunction with racing at Arlington Park, Maywood Park, Fairmount Park, and the Illinois State Fair harness meeting.