No Action on Slots at Tracks in Illinois

Tracks and horsemen put in strong push for racetrack slots

By Bob Kieckhefer

The Illinois General Assembly abruptly adjourned May 7 without acting on a proposal to allow slot machines at the state’s race tracks.

The proposal, however, remains technically alive in the House, where it appeared to be close to passage as lawmakers headed for home. Sponsors said they still had work to do in the Senate, primarily to overcome opposition from members whose districts include existing riverboat casinos.

The legislature also failed to pass a meaningful budget for the state for the upcoming fiscal year. Because of technical considerations, it’s likely the lawmakers will return to Springfield soon and try to complete that task before a May 31 constitutional deadline.

Track officials put on a last-minute lobbying and public relations drive to try to win support for their proposal, with Arlington Park arguing slots are a survival issue for their track. The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association also mounted a frantic telephone and mail campaign to enlist its members’ support in the lobbying drive.