Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich has signed into law two bills designed to help protect thousands of jobs associated with the state's horse racing industry.The governor signed House Bill 1918, creating the Horse Racing Equity Trust Fund, which will provide $36 million a year for racing purses and racetrack improvements for the next two years. In addition, the Governor signed House Bill 4377, which reduces the state tax due on bets placed at Fairmount Racetrack in Collinsville from 1.5% to .25%. "These bills will help protect the jobs of thousands of hardworking people who depend on the horse racing industry for their livelihood. They will also create a more level playing field that will allow the horse racing industry to remain competitive in Illinois," said Blagojevich. HB 1918, sponsored by Rep. Robert S. Molaro (D-Chicago) and Sen. James F. Clayborne Jr. (D-Belleville) creates a new Horse Racing Equity Trust Fund to give Illinois racetracks funding for races, track improvements and promotion. It requires the four largest riverboat casinos to pay 3% of their adjusted gross receipts for two years to the Horse Racing Equity Trust Fund. The estimated $36 million in annual revenues will be distributed from the Trust Fund in the following way: --60% of the overall funds will be distributed in the form of purse money - prize money that is paid to the winners of the races. Thoroughbred racing will receive 57% of that amount, and standardbred racing will receive the remaining 43%. Each racetrack will receive purse money equal to their percentage of total purse money for that breed in the prior year. --The remaining 40% of the funds would go to track improvements and promotion. Fairmount Racetrack will get 11% of that amount, while the rest will be divided between the other Illinois racetracks based on the percentage of total bets placed on races at that track in 2004 and 2005. HB 4377, sponsored by Rep. Jay C. Hoffman (D-Collinsville) and Sen. William R. Haine (D-Alton) will reduce the state tax due on bets placed at Fairmount Racetrack in Collinsville from 1.5% to 0.25%. The Fairmount Racetrack employs more than 2,000 people and is a vital center of commerce for the city of Collinsville. "Fairmount Park Racetrack has been an economic engine in the Metro East area for decades," said Hoffman. "This legislation will allow Fairmount Park Racetrack to remain competitive by increasing live racing dates and will provide thousands of employees job security."
"I've been in this industry for 30 years now," said Dr. Terry Morgan, horse breeder and practicing veterinarian at Fairmount Racetrack whose wife owns the local tack shop. "Fairmount has been through some tough times. We have been waiting for a way to revitalize this business for some time now and Governor Blagojevich provided us with the means to do so. This will affect everybody here at Fairmount and we are extremely grateful for this opportunity. It means the world to us." HB 1918 and HB 4377 become effective immediately.