Governor Signs Fairmount Park Legislation

Illinois Gov. George Ryan, despite a strenuous lobbying campaign by harness horsemen, has signed legislation stabilizing the purse structure for Thoroughbred racing at Fairmount Park in Collinsville.

The bill permits Fairmount to keep 80% of its nighttime simulcast revenue for the Thoroughbred purse account. A Madison County Court ruling on Jan. 9 directed Fairmount to turn that revenue over to harness racing at Illinois County fairs.

As a result of the court order, Fairmount delayed the opening of its
2001 season by six weeks and has been running for severely diminished purses. Had the bill not been signed, the track would have been forced to close within weeks for lack of purse money.

Fairmount ended harness racing after its 1999 season and since then has conducted only Thoroughbred racing. However, the court held that Fairmount was still bound by state law requiring a day/night split of simulcast revenue between Thoroughbred and harness purses statewide.

The corrective legislation passed by a narrow margin late in the spring session. The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association organized an extensive lobbying campaign urging Ryan to veto the bill. Ryan did not comment on his action. He signed the bill late Thursday.