Push for Slots Continues in Illinois

The push for racetracks slots in Illinois hasn't stopped.

As horseracing interests lobby for slot machines in Illinois, two former state legislators have floated a $31-billion infrastructure plan that would be paid in part by expanded gambling in the state.

Racing interests said slots at the five racetracks in the state would provide enough revenue to finance a $20-billion capital improvement program and help preserve the 40,000 agribusiness jobs associated with racing. On May 19, six associations representing Thoroughbred, Standardbred, and Quarter Horse interests visited the state capitol in Springfield to lobby lawmakers, according to a joint release.

Racetrack slots would produce net revenue of about $2 billion for the state, horse industry groups said.

“Not only will slot machines fund the state’s capital program, they will bolster one of Illinois’ leading agribusinesses, the horse industry, which already pumps billions of dollars a year into the state’s economy,” Bill Wright, chairman of the Illinois Horse Racing Strategic Planning Council, said in a statement. “The jobs from horse racing need to be preserved, and we are in Springfield to show lawmakers the faces and stories behind these jobs.”

“Bigger purses attract better horses, which translates into more horse farms and more jobs,” said Greg Szymski of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “That in turn leads to more money from taxes that flow to the state.”

The capitol event was attended by representatives of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, Illinois THA, Illinois Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association, Illinois Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Foundation, Illinois Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, and Illinois Quarter Horse Race Association.

Meanwhile, the plan by former Illinois legislators Dennis Hastert and Glenn Poshard is supported by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, according to the Associated Press. The legislature, still without a state budget, adjourns May 31, so any sweeping revenue plan may have to wait.