Racetrack gaming, purse assistance bills pass Illinois Senate

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: May 19, 2017

The Illinois Senate May 17 again passed gaming legislation, but this time the measure isn’t contingent upon passage of other bills packaged to end a budget impasse.

The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association also reported that the Senate approved a bill that would allow the Illinois Racing Board to provide $500,000 for Thoroughbred and Standardbred purses in the state.

The Senate, by a vote of 33-24, approved a gaming bill the ITHA says would provide “favorable rates” from gaming machines to support purses; guarantee minimum live racing opportunities; and eliminate the practice known as recapture, which allows the IRB to shift money from purse accounts to racetracks to help pay for operations.

The House of Representatives directed the bill to its Executive Committee for consideration.

The bill offers the following formula for purse revenue derived from gaming: 12.75% of annual adjusted gross receipts up to and including $75 million; 20% of annual adjusted gross receipts in excess of $75 million but not exceeding $100 million; 26.5% of annual adjusted gross receipts in excess of $100 million but not exceeding $125 million; and 20.5% of annual adjusted gross receipts in excess of $125 million.

As for recapture, which since 1995 when full-card simulcasts began has given tracks more than $200 million from purse accounts, the ITHA called it a “woeful practice.” The IRB this year has reallocated $11 million under recapture provisions, the ITHA said.

Though the latest gaming bill is no longer connected to other budgetary measures, the ITHA said the ongoing stalemate between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislators is major question mark for its passage. The regular legislative session is scheduled to wrap up May 31.

Rauner indicated he could support the gaming bill if it is part of a “grand bargain” package that would help the state balance its budget, according to published reports.

The ITHA said that should the IRB purse plan be implemented, the regulatory agency plans to provide $259,662 for Arlington Park, $82,457 for Thoroughbred races at Hawthorne Race Course, $37,475 for Thoroughbred racing at Fairmount Park, and $120,406 for Standardbred races at Hawthorne. The Senate narrowly approved the provisions, included in another budget measure, on a 31-21 vote.

Following the vote on Senate Bill 6, the sponsor put a parliamentary hold on the bill to prevent it from going to the House for consideration; the ITHA said there are no indications when the hold may be lifted.

“Illinois horsemen welcome the prospect of a small one-time boost for underfunded purses in our state,” the ITHA said. “However, the legislation does not specifically require that these additional funds be dedicated to Illinois-bred restricted races. ITHA President Mike Campbell earlier this spring urged the IRB to ensure that any such dollars from its budget are used to bolster purses for those Illinois races—thereby supporting Illinois breeders and Illinois jobs—but track operators strongly objected to that approach and the IRB stopped short of offering any commitment in this regard.”

Senate Bill 6 also includes language that states the purse account can be used only for purses, which would in turn eliminate recapture, the ITHA said.