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The Illinois General Assembly is scheduled to finish their spring session on Monday, May 31st. A budget is still not in place. There are on-going discussions between Democrat and Republican leadership. The hope is that the powers to be will find some common ground within the next week and do what is best for the citizens of Illinois by agreeing to a financial plan. How does that impact us as horsemen in Illinois? We have been told that a gaming bill will be addressed when a budget is agreed to. Regarding that covted gaming bill, it is highly unlikely, yet not impossible, that will occur anytime soon. The next realistic opportunity for us to get it passed for a third time will be in November although it is still possible we will be without a budget at that time, pushing our hopes further into the future.
There are some issues still currently pending that will affect us. An extension of our current ADW bill appears to be set for passage. An OTB bill allowing Hawthorne, Fairmount and Arlington Park to pick up the unused licenses left behind by Maywood and Balmoral has some traction. The IHHA is supporting both of those pieces of legislation. Neither, however, will have any immediate impact on our game. We have attempted to work with all of the other horse racing industry entities to try and add five video poker machines at our OTB’s as other liquor license establishments are allowed to do. We have explored the possibility of allowing historical racing machines at our racetracks. Unfortunately, nothing has gained momentum.
One very integral piece to our current racing status is insuring that traditional funding from “The Department of Agriculture” for purses for racing at the state and county fairs is included and appropriated in this year’s budget. Last year the money was included in the budget but all state spending was ceased by the Governor. We believe that injecting this added money into the industry is of utmost importance.