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The final scheduled day of the General Assembly came and went with accomplishing very little. However, they didn’t adjourn for the summer and will reconvene later in June. SB7, our gaming bill, as expected was never called in the House. We passed it out of the Senate a few weeks ago. Without a budget in place, we are told the bill will simply have to wait. We had a small VGT bill pass out of the gaming subcommittee but it never advanced from there. Our money for the State and County Fairs also sits in limbo, awaiting the final budget. The one encouraging development from this session so far is an internet gaming bill that seemingly came out of nowhere. Originally, we were not included, but through tenacious work by the lobbying teams of all three horsemen’s groups we were able to get into the bill and garner a fair deal. The bill allows fantasy sports and allows casinos to get an online gaming license. The bill in its current form would also allow racetracks and ADW companies to get an online gaming license. Before obtaining a license though, both racetracks and ADW’s would have to contract with horsemen for a percentage of the revenue, a plan for eliminating recapture and a guarantee of live racing dates. This bill passed the Senate 42-10. It now has to be passed in the House and then would need a signature by the Governor. If this bill ever becomes law, the potential revenue for purses is very, very promising . We will keep everyone abreast of the facts and the issues as they progress.
Today is the last scheduled day of our legislative session. Still, no budget in sight. There is a good chance that the session will be extended into the summer. Horsemen are included in an internet gaming bill that could be very beneficial to us if it advances, but its future is very cloudy. Our 708 money (which is the money that comes from the Dept. of Ag. for state and county fair purses) is included in the Democrats version of a budget; but at this point in time, we don’t know if it will be adopted. Table games have been added to SB7, (the gaming bill) and sent to the House executive committee; that committee is currently not scheduled, but could be with an hour’s notice. Bottom line, everything is shaping up as expected, with little progress on anything. If this message seems vague and/or disjointed, it’s because that is how our General Assembly in Illinois works. You have to experience it in real time to understand how dysfunctional it is. I’ll update again as issues become clearer.
We wish we could report on something that is happening in Springfield but unfortunately we cannot. As I write this their are five more days left in the session, currently scheduled to end Wednesday, May 31st. As in the past, it could be extended further into the summer but so far no word on that.
SB 7, our gaming bill and lifeline to the future, has passed in the Senate and now sits in the House Gaming Subcommittee. As before, we are told their will only be movement on this if leadership has an agreement on a budget. Hopefully, we will get the opportunity to try and pass this bill and ultimately have the Governor sign it.
Within some of the proposed budgets being discussed are monies that are traditionally earmarked for harness racing at the State and County Fairs. It is commonly referred to as our “708” money. Because their has been no budget recently, we have not had access to those funds. Again, this year we find ourselves in similar territory. We believe that if their is a stopgap budget we will not see that money, if their is a full budget, then we will have a chance of having those funds available to us as purses.
There are a myriad of other gaming bills that have little chance of passing this session yet, we still must do the work and be ready if they are indeed called for a vote. Those bills include a potential internet gaming bill, a fantasy sports bill, and extension of the current or tweaked ADW bill and a bill that follows the current structure of allowing five slot machines at facilities with a liquor license but this bill would lift the current prohibition on racetracks and allow them to get 150 slot machines, in which, of course, horsemen would share the profits 50/50.
We will try and update everyone as soon as we hear anything significant. Thanks for tuning in.