Posted: March 4, 2019
As the state legislative session begins heating up, the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association has published fact sheets on the economic impact of the racing industry and the effects of a statutory provision authorizing a practice known as recapture.
The economic impact report, credited to the Horsemen’s Council of Illinois, indicates racing supports 10,000 horse-related jobs and has a $1.2 billion total economic impact on the state. The overall equine industry in Illinois accounts for almost 26,000 jobs, has an economic impact of $3.2 billion, and is associated with 645,000 acres, according to the report.
Recapture, part of a mid-1990s law that authorized full-card simulcasts at Illinois racetracks and off-track betting parlors, was designed to compensate tracks for revenue lost from the shift of wagering on the live product to other signals. Horsemen’s groups in the state have attempted to have the provision dropped because the recapture money comes from purse accounts.
The ITHA statistics show that in each year from 2013 to 2017, $7 million to $9 million has been taken from purses. Arlington Park accounts for about 50%, followed by Hawthorne Race Course (30%) and Fairmount Park (20%) based on averages.
If recapture ended, the stats show that in 2017 purses at Arlington would have increased 30% to more than $19 million, 33% at Hawthorne to about $10.5 million, and 86% at Fairmount to almost $4 million for the meet.
On the gaming front, the Illinois Racing Board last year approved and submitted regulations governing historical horse racing machines to the state for review; that process continues. There also have been multiple bills in recent years that would permit tracks to have slot machines as part of a broader gambling package.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, meanwhile, has focused only on sports betting—it’s part of his budget proposal. The Associated Press reported that the governor is floating a plan to offer 20 licenses for on-site or online sports betting that would each cost $10 million, the same fee charged in Pennsylvania. If 20 licenses were sold that would generate a one-time $200 million for the state; annual renewals for licenses would cost $5,000. The legislation hasn’t been prepared yet, so the tax rate or rates on bets isn’t known.
(Arlington Park photo courtesy of ITHA)