Legislative Update

Representative Mike Zalewski recently introduced a sports betting bill (HB3308) which also came with five different amendments. These different amendments were designed to get everyone’s position on the record for where they stood. We testified in front of the House Revenue and Finance Committee regarding HB 3308 and its five amendments. Of the five amendments, racetracks were included in four. The fifth one had no one included and was for the state lottery to run it all, with the state taking in all of the profits. Of the four good amendments, amendment number 2 had terrific language that we worked on last year that stated the racetracks must have a contract with horsemen before getting sports betting. That is the amendment we supported strongly. We mentioned that the other three that included the racetracks were good, but would need a tweak or two. This was the first significant discussion this year on sports betting and more are expected. Keep in mind, sports betting on its own, will not turn a big profit for the horse racing industry. The anticipated monies earned will not be enough to completely eliminate recapture or guarantee us a substantial increase in racing days.  However, we need to stay relevant and every little bit helps.

Currently, besides sports betting, we are also pushing for the state to reimburse the recapture money (about $2.3m for harness racing) that is owed us. We are working to get those dollars put into the Dept. of Agriculture budget so they can then be put into our purse account at Hawthorne. John Sullivan, the new director of Agriculture has been very supportive and is doing all he can to help. Also, we are hopeful that the extensive gaming bill, which would allow racinos in Illinois, will be reintroduced by the end of April. It is frustrating to watch this process move so slowly but history has shown us that something as controversial and major as a gaming bill will not pick up steam until May.