With no movement in negotiations between the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (IHHA) and Maywood and Balmoral racetracks, dire consequences appear on the horizon, as a work stoppage has cancelled racing through Friday, January 5, 2006.
Failed talks have and will adversely impact the lives of thousands of families and millions of dollars in economic activity to local and state governments.
"These negotiations are not just about racing and the racing industry," said IHHA president Martin Engel. "The livelihoods of thousands of hard-working Illinois families are at stake."
The horsemen are currently racing under a contract with the same provisions for the last three years. At the heart of the current negotiations is the issue of un-reimbursed recapture - the amount of money that the tracks take from the horsemen's purses that is supposed to be reimbursed to the horsemen by the state but has not been in last three years.
Understandably, the IHHA views this as patently unfair.
Track owners will be legally entitled to deduct $4.2 million from horsemen's purse in 2006 - earnings that come from betting at the track as well as off-track sites. Under the provisions of the current contract, the tracks waive 10 percent of the monies due them, take 20 percent up front and defer 70 percent.
The deferred monies can only be collected if and when one of three criteria are met:
1. Slot machines were allowed at racetracks
2. The 10th riverboat license is up and running; or
3. The state met its obligation and reimburses the horsemen.
lso written into the contract was a sunset clause, that if one of the three conditions for collecting the deferred monies had not occurred, the deferred money would be uncollectible after three years.
This past weekend, December 31, 2005, marks the end of the third year to collect
he 2003 deferred monies, which total $3.1 million.
"The tracks first wanted to change the old contract that we signed with them," said Engel. "Now they want to take all of the recapture, thereby mortally wounding our future. Why should a select few, rich track owners continue to line their pockets with the hard-earned monies of thousands of struggling horsemen?"
The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association, a not-for-profit corporation, is comprised of owners, breeders, trainers and drivers of standardbred horses. The association promotes the welfare of harness racing in Illinois, and in so doing promotes the welfare of its members.
Courtesy Of Jack Kelly for the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association