ITHA releases statement on parameters of 2020-21 contract with Arlington Park

By: Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association

Posted: June 25, 2020 The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association June 25 released a statement on the parameters of its recently signed two-year contract with Arlington Park:

Illinois Thoroughbred owners and trainers look forward to racing at Arlington Park this summer now that the track’s contract with the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, following months of negotiations, has been approved in a fashion that will advance the priorities of horsemen.

Arlington plans 30 days of live racing on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from Thursday, July 23 through Wednesday, Sept. 30, with 2 p.m. Central post times. Arlington has pledged to make every effort to open its backstretch on or before Monday, July 6.

“Live racing supports the jobs of local men and women, both at the track and Throughout agribusiness downstate, and we are grateful for the opportunity to get back to work,” ITHA President Mike Campbell said. “I commend ITHA Executive Director David McCaffrey and ITHA Contract Committee Chair Chris Block, who, together with the ITHA Board of Directors, remained tenacious in their commitment to serving the best interests of Illinois horsemen. This is a contract that, particularly in this challenging time, we all can be proud of.”

Highlights of the contract, which covers racing in 2020 and 2021, include:

  • Arlington in 2020 has agreed to not use funds from the horsemen’s purse account to pay for open stakes.
  • Overnight purses this year will depend on total handle generated and, as such, the ITHA urges Arlington to return its OTB network to full operation. Since receiving permission to re-open OTBs, which were shuttered near the start of the pandemic, Arlington has re-opened just three of its 11 parlors and, at those three locations, has effectively limited wagering activity. Hours of operation have been reduced. No programs have been available for purchase. And winning players have not been able to cash tickets on site. Even as Hawthorne Race Course has ramped up OTB operations, following standard practices of program sales and ticket cashing, handle at Arlington OTBs has been down precipitously.
  • In 2021, Arlington’s “recapture” from the purse account is capped at $4.5 million. This means that, notwithstanding any increase that may be permitted in recapture next year, the total Arlington recapture from the purse account cannot exceed $4.5 million. Recapture likely would otherwise increase next year, under the formula that determines recapture based on lost handle relative to handle in 1994, because of the unprecedented reduction in handle this year due to COVID-19.
  • Arlington in 2021 cannot remove dollars from the purse account to pay for stakes unless the total earned for purses reaches a minimum of $9.75 million. If the total earned for purses is greater than $9.75 million, but no greater than $11.3 million, then Arlington can remove up to $800,000 from the purse account for stakes. (Importantly, these monetary benchmarks are exclusive of recapture and the funds utilized by the ITHA to provide supports and services for Illinois horsemen.)
  • Arlington could nonetheless opt to host stakes races next year. But if the total earned for purses does not reach $9.75 million (net of recapture and ITHA fees), then the track must pay for those stakes awards from its own ledger—not from the horsemen’s purse account.
  • As a point of reference to underscore the importance of this provision limiting the use of purse funds for stakes, remember that Arlington last year took more than $3.3 million from the purse account for stakes. Limiting stakes is, therefore, a tremendous improvement for local horse owners and trainers dedicated to Illinois racing.
  • Arlington intends to apply for 65 race days in 2021. The Illinois Racing Board this fall will determine next year’s racing dates.

The objective of the ITHA during the entire contract process was to protect the interest of owners and trainers, who support Illinois racing, by maximizing overnight purses. We believe this contract does that sufficiently and, in fact, better than any other prior contract.

We are grateful for the resolve of Illinois Thoroughbred owners and trainers, and that of backstretch workers and others whose livelihood is linked to live racing, during this difficult period of COVID-19. We also appreciate the time and effort expended especially by IRB Commissioner Thomas McCauley, as well as by IRB Executive Director Domenic DiCera, toward resolution of this contract with Arlington.

We wish Thoroughbred owners and trainers of Illinois the best of racing luck. Back to the races we go.