By Mike Paradise
The 2016 Springfield State Fair meet is in the history books and all-in-all it went off pretty well, especially for a session not too many months ago was still in jeopardy of not being held.
Hawthorne took over the reins to run the meet for the first time since Sportsman’s Park was still hosting a summer harness meet and that was in the last century.
The only glitch at the Springfield meeting was that unlike in many past years this time around you could only bet on the Springfield races if you were at the racetrack. You couldn’t watch and wager on your favorite ADW feed.
I didn’t learn about that disappointing situation until the day of the eight 2 and 3-year-old championships. I frantically searched the Internet for a site to watch the races for my next day’s story and I couldn’t find one.
I fired off an e-mail to the powers to be at Hawthorne and asked what the heck is going on and putting the blame on the racetrack, for this debacle.
I was wrong.
Hawthorne didn’t make that call. It was the Illinois Department of Agriculture that did.
Here’s a portion of an e-mail reply from Jim Miller, Hawthorne’s Publicity Director:
“In regards to the lack of a signal to OTB locations or ADW, the cost of uplink and decoder fees exceeded what the return was in regards to commission or purse generation from wagers placed through these locations and it was encouraged by the state that we don’t take on these additional expenses.
“Our goal, in agreement with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, was to be able to maximize purses available to those Illinois horsemen racing at the Illinois State Fair.”
That was quickly followed by an e-mail from the track’s Assistant General Manager John Wash:
“Just to expound on Jim’s email., the Department of Agriculture did everything they could to run the pari-mutuel part of the state fairs with no budget, so when Hawthorne became involved it had already been decided not to offer wagering anywhere else except at the fairs.
“Next year if all things remain the same we will offer wagering on the fairs everywhere if we can receive a reasonable bid for sending the signal out to the rest of the world, that the Department of Agriculture will be happy with. ”
So there you have it.
I don’t blame the Illinois Department of Ag for their decision. They don’t have the funds. No big surprise. Illinois is broke and Horse Racing isn’t the top priority on the state’s list of “things to do” unless you’re reading it standing on your head.
But for the sake of horsemen racing fans throughout the state, Hawthorne could have done a better job of communicating the fact that there wasn’t going to be a video feed from to any of the ADW’s on the Springfield races and why.
A Press Release from Hawthorne a few weeks before Springfield began would have gotten people like me to put the word out about the state of affairs and maybe bring even more people to the Fairgrounds to wager on the races.
However that didn’t happen
Even a Promo Box on Hawthorne’s Website concerning the Springfield ADW situation and that a live stream of the races was available at http://www.illinois.gov/statefair/info/Webcams/Pages/HarnessRacing.aspx.might have sufficed.
No such Promo Box was there. In fact, nothing about the Springfield meet was on the entire Hawthorn web-site.
Maybe they can get one up there for next weekend’s Du Quoin meet. Their first draw is Tuesday morning. And sadly, there will be no ADW viewing or wagering on that State Fair meet as well.
By Mike Paradise