SPRINGFIELD, Ill., June 28, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez and members of the Latino Caucus and organized labor came together at the Capitol on Wednesday in support of a bipartisan effort authorizing table games at racetracks to salvage Illinois' agribusiness economy, save 30,000 jobs and preserve the livelihood of thousands of Latino workers.
Hernandez (24th District) filed an amendment to Senate Bill 7, the proposed gaming bill, that authorizes table games at racetracks. The bill, which passed the Illinois Senate last month, authorizes six new casinos with table games – adding even more gaming competition to the State and cheating Illinois' racetracks and agribusiness industry of the same opportunity to compete. The same bill excludes the State's three racetracks and denies Latino workers the opportunity for jobs that are going to new casinos across the state.
"We just want an equitable solution," Hernandez said. "The passage of any gaming legislation that does not include table games at racetracks would doom the horseracing industry, cost up to 30,000 workers their jobs, and once again disproportionately impact Latino workers in my district and across the State."
"This is a good jobs bill," said Tim Drea, treasurer of the Illinois AFL-CIO. "The AFL-CIO and all our affiliates are very strongly supportive of the Latino Caucus and this legislation."
Hernandez (24th District) was joined by Rep. Silvana Tabares (21st District) as well as representatives from the Illinois AFL-CIO, Unite HERE Local 450, Operating Engineers #399 and Teamsters Joint Council 25.
The amendment is supported by 14 members of the Latino Caucus who submitted a letter to leadership Wednesday urging the inclusion of table games for racetracks in legislation expanding gaming in Illinois.
Horseracing is part of a multi-billion dollar agribusiness industry in Illinois. Horse trainers and breeders are fleeing the state in search of higher purses, and four of the State's seven racetracks have been shuttered in the past 25 years, costing thousands of workers their jobs.
The proliferation of 28,000 slot and video gaming consoles across the state and competition from new casinos has dramatically changed the gaming landscape over the past few years. Slot machines alone are no longer enough to save the State's beleaguered agribusiness economy.
"The vast majority of the workforce at Illinois racetracks is Latino," Rep. Jaime Andrade said. "As representatives of predominantly Latino districts, we are specifically invested in the quality and availability of employment opportunities. The tracks provide good, union jobs with fair wages and an opportunity for advancement."
The addition of table games at racetracks would add an additional 1,000 jobs on top of what slot machines alone could offer. They'd also add tens of millions of dollars to Illinois coffers, more than doubling what slots alone could achieve.
The proposed gaming expansion in SB7 is a live-or-die issue for the agribusiness economy.
"It's time to level the playing field," Hernandez said. "We're fighting for the right and fair solution. Why are we writing laws that favor one sector of the gaming industry over another? Let's keep jobs here in Illinois agribusiness, not outsource them to the casinos. The Latino Caucus urges leadership to reject any gaming expansion that does not authorize table games at racetracks."
Springfield Press Conference Video and Photos:
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SOURCE Illinois Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez