Sportsman's Park Turns Back Challenge to ITW Licenses

By Marcy Kreiter
The Illinois Racing Board Monday turned back an effort by Maywood Park Trotting Association and Balmoral Racing Club to strip the National Jockey Club of its intertrack wagering licenses in Peru, Joliet and Crestwood.

Maywood and Balmoral contended since the National Jockey Club would not be racing at Sportsman's Park in 2003, it was not entitled to the licenses.

But commissioner John B. Simon sharply criticized the effort, accusing Maywood and Balmoral of trying to take over the NJC's assets without paying for them.

"They could get more licenses without taking these licenses," Simon told the board meeting, noting that each track is allowed six off-track licenses and neither track has that many.

Balmoral and Maywood had sought a hearing to contest the NJC licenses, claiming such a hearing is required under Illinois law. The board, however, rejected the argument. Simon said because neither Balmoral nor Maywood ever held these particular licenses, they had no standing to seek a hearing on them.

"These are renewal requests," Simon said, adding that the board had dealt with NJC's standing as a racing entity weeks ago when it granted racing dates. "They have their racing dates, they're finite and they're expected to be run."

Simon also noted the board did not take away off-track betting licenses from Arlington Park and Sportsman's when those tracks were dark.

In other action, the IRB voted to resume pick six, pick four and pick three wagering once new security protocols are in place. Illinois tracks may resume local multi-race bets immediately and intertrack multi-race wagers as the protocols are installed elsewhere. The bets were suspended Nov. 12 "until the board can reasonably assure the public that the pools cannot be compromised."

Concern over the integrity of such bets arose from the Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick 6 Oct. 26 in which three former fraternity brothers faked a winning ticket. One of the three was an employee of Autotote Systems Inc. and produced the bogus ticket by taking the winners of the first four Breeders' Cup races and wheeling them with all the horses in the remaining races. The more than $3 million payout that resulted from Valponi's win in the Classic raised flags.

Representatives of Autotote and Amtote International Inc. assured the board they were taking all necessary steps to protect the integrity of their systems and the ITSP 5.18 protocol would be in place nationwide within weeks.

Autotote President Brooks Pierce said the protocol already was in place in Illinois and New York and a timetable for the rest of the company would be provided shortly. He said he expects the system to be operating nationwide by the middle of January. AmTote said it expected to finish installing the new protocol by Dec. 20. Pierce urged the board to contact United Tote for its timetable.

The board also renewed Autote's and AmTote's licenses for 2003, approved intertrack wagering licensees, approved the stakes calendars and purses for Hawthorne and the National Jockey Club, approved the pari-mutuel tax credit authorized under state law subject to a recalculation to include the National Jockey Club and OK'd licenses for concessionaires at the tracks and off-track operations.

The board sent back for staff reconsideration the question of the 2003 purse recapture in light of the General Assembly's failure to authorize funding. Last January, the legislature certified $15 million for recapture and in April approved $13 million for 2003. However, Gov. George Ryan vetoed the $13 million certification and lawmakers have so far failed to override that veto. The legislature meets again in January and could take the matter up then.