Day At The Track

Doomsday nears for Illinois horsemen

06:01 AM 09 Nov 2013 NZDT
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Horsemen left out of legislative session - Tens of thousands of jobs in limbo

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Over 20,000 Illinois horsemen are unsure about the security of their jobs today after the General Assembly adjourned without acting to extend online horse betting also known as Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW), a key funding source for the Illinois Racing Board. Without that extra funding, the Racing Board will have to dramatically curtail the racing season.

“It’s beyond frustrating,” said Illinois Harness Horsmen’s Association President Dave McCaffrey. “Thousands of horsemen are unable to plan for their future. Working men and women, breeders, blacksmiths, trainers – no one in the industry knows if we will begin racing February first, February fifteenth or in July.”

The Racing Board needed to come up with almost $800,000 to help plug a hole in their budget. The shortfall is left over from a failure to extend ADW in the 2013 Spring Legislative session.

Interests in the horse racing industry, including racetracks, horsemen’s associations and ADW companies were charged by legislators with coming up with a plan that all of the racing industry parties agreed on.

The plan that the industry put forward would have solved the problem by imposing a .9 percent surcharge on winning online wagers. The revenue from that surcharge would have funded the Racing Board for two years, while also extending ADW. The proposed surcharge on ADW would still be less than the surcharge imposed on bets placed at the racetrack or an off track betting parlor.

“Nearly everyone in the Illinois racing industry supported this plan,” said McCaffrey. “We need Help somehow, from somewhere to settle this issue quickly.”

The next scheduled day for legislators to reconvene for session is January 29th 2013, the day before racing typically begins.

“Everyone in the horse industry is left in limbo,” said McCaffrey. “How can anyone plan to run a business when they don’t even know if the industry is going to be around? These are people’s lives that are at stake here.”

There is some speculation that the General Assembly will come back to Springfield for a special session to pass pension reform in December, however, there is no guarantee that an ADW bill will be called or passed.

“Horsemen need to race to make a living and we are doing everything we possibly can to make that happen,” said McCaffrey. “Horsemen are not multimillionaires. We’re talking about blue collar working men and women supporting families.”

Andrew Mack

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