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.
While the IHHA and Hawthorne Racecourse have had a contract for the 2017 race meet signed from the beginning of this year, both groups have been working on finding a comfort level for how the 2018 harness season may look. After many meaningful discussions, we are pleased to report that we have reached an agreement with Hawthorne for 2018. The contract is basically an extension of the 2017 one but includes considerations for maximizing racing dates (opportunities) while still addressing adequate purse levels. However, the IHHA reminds everyone that the Illinois Racing Board is still the ultimate authority for approving racing dates. Yet, Hawthorne’s pledge to harness racing beyond 2017, through this contract, shows that they are committed to harness racing into the future. We are looking forward to the start of our summer meet, which is right around the corner, opening night is Thursday, May 11. See you then.