Illinois Lawmaker: Racetrack Slots a Priority

Illinois Rep. Lou Lang said he will draft a racetrack slots bill as soon as possible.

Democratic Illinois Rep. Lou Lang reiterated Jan. 15 he intends to push legislation authorizing racetrack slot machines and will begin drafting a bill the week of Jan. 17.

Lang took heat from horse racing interests for not calling expanded gambling legislation for a vote Jan. 11, the final day of the holdover legislative session in Illinois. Lang, deputy majority leader of the House of Representatives, earlier said he received word Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn wouldn’t sign the bill, and the General Assembly would have no time to override a veto.

Lang also said passage of a hefty income tax increase created “erosion of support” for the gambling measure.

The legislation was broad in that it authorized new casinos as well as a limited number of slots at six racetracks in Illinois, including the shuttered Quad City Downs harness track, now an off-track betting parlor operated by Churchill Downs Inc. The other five tracks, all of which offer live racing, are Arlington Park, Fairmount Park, and Hawthorne Race Course on the Thoroughbred side, and Balmoral Park and Maywood Park on the harness side.

Lang in an e-mail statement received by The Blood-Horse Jan. 15 said language dealing with casinos would be removed from his planned bill. The racing-related language will remain, which is what the House intended in the first place, he said.

“This bill will be forwarded with the greatest speed that can be mustered,” Lang said.

To racing industry representatives, Lang said: “This is your livelihood. I am painfully aware of that. But, let no one believe that I am not on your side. I made a judgment based on my knowledge of the process that 23 years can bring. I made this decision based on my desire to make this happen for you.

“While I do not make my living in horse racing, I can assure you that I was very much in pain over this decision, but let me also assure you that I made it with the best of intentions and in your best interests, so that we would live to fight on.

“I pledge to do what I always have done—to work hard to help an industry in trouble save itself from disaster. I have put much of my career into this for over 20 years, and I will not stop working on this until we have completed our mission.”