ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill., June 22, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Horse racing in Illinois would plummet, threatening thousands of jobs at tracks and across Illinois agribusiness, under a plan by Churchill Downs, Inc., to upend its obligation to live racing and usurp the state's authority to determine the racing schedule.
The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association strongly opposes CDI's proposal, which state regulators will consider on Tuesday. It represents the latest of CDI's efforts to strip mine the horse racing industry for the most profitable assets and cast aside its former commitment to strengthening the quality and scope of thoroughbred horse racing nationwide.
Under its plan, CDI seeks to purge Arlington Park, its subsidiary in Illinois, of the state's requirement that it host a minimum number of live races. But it would keep the track in position to enjoy the considerable fees earned from simulcasting races when live racing isn't occurring.
"The bargain is simple – a track gets to collect millions of dollars from simulcasting races, but it has to keep up its commitment to live racing to qualify for those dollars," said Mike Campbell, President of ITHA. "Live racing supports thousands of jobs throughout the state, from backstretch workers to feed and hay suppliers, so the state says tracks have to provide a public benefit, in the form of live racing, to get that money."
CDI's attempt to eviscerate Illinois' live racing mandate follows other recent moves to shun horse racing – which remains profitable, but not to the degree desired by CDI – and shift its focus to other forms of gaming. At Calder Race Course in Florida, CDI kept the Calder Casino but removed itself from responsibility over racing by leasing operational control of the track to another company. And in Louisiana, CDI made the Fair Grounds Race Course available for sale shortly after legislators in that state threatened to compel CDI to invest in necessary track maintenance.
The move in Illinois comes as lawmakers here consider legislation to permit gaming machines at tracks as a means to grow purses, protect jobs, and help Illinois racing better compete with other racing jurisdictions already using casino-style revenue to enhance purses. But notwithstanding the promise of a stronger future for Illinois horse racing – one that benefits all stakeholders – CDI officials here have increasingly focused on other areas of gaming likely to produce higher profit but little or no public benefit.
Despite facts to the contrary, CDI insists that wholesale consolidation of horse racing – to the detriment of businesses and jobs supported directly or indirectly by live racing – is inevitable.
"This is a time to hold our industry together, not tear it down," Campbell said. "If CDI succeeds in stifling the requirement that it maintain live racing, and it stops providing that tremendous value to our state, it will take a huge step toward ensuring the industry fate it has so eagerly predicted."
President, Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association
SOURCE Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association