Racing Industry Assistance Bill Passes Illinois House

Revised legislation that would provide the Illinois horse racing industry with casino revenue passed the state House of Representatives 70-32 April 26 and heads to the Senate for consideration.

The measure, the latest in a series of bills fashioned to assist the horse racing industry, would take 3% of adjusted gross receipts from riverboat casinos that produce more than $200 million in such revenue each year. Four casinos fit that description; an earlier version of the bill would have taken money from all casinos in the state.

According to published reports, about $36 million would be generated under the plan. The chief sponsor of the bill is Rep. Robert Molaro, who said the revenue would merely help the Illinois racing industry compete with racing industries in other states.

Under the bill, 60% of the casino revenue would go to purse accounts, with 57% for Thoroughbreds and 43% for Standardbreds. Of the remaining 40% of revenue, Chicago-area racetracks (Arlington Park, Balmoral Park, Hawthorne Race Course, and Maywood Park) would share 89% based on a pari-mutuel handle formula, and 11% would go to Fairmount Park, which holds the only extended pari-mutuel meet in southern Illinois.

The bill says revenue received by a racetrack licensee "shall be used to improve, maintain, market, and otherwise operate its racing facilities to conduct live racing, which shall include backstretch services and the backstretch. Any organization licensees sharing common ownership may pool the moneys received and spent at all racing facilities commonly owned."

Two harness tracks, Balmoral and Maywood, share common ownership.

The legislation states that from 1992 through 2005, on-track handle at Illinois tracks has dropped 42%, from $835 million to $482 million. It says the Illinois horse breeding industry is valued at $2.5 billion.