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Racing board wants state to pony up big bucks

Wednesday, Sep 25, 2013

* Tribune

Uncertainty reigned Tuesday after the Illinois Racing Board drafted the 2014 thoroughbred and harness racing schedules.

Taking into account the possibility that funds may not be available to enable the Racing Board to regulate racing, Chairman William Berry made a motion to approve four alternative schedules and it passed by an 8-1 vote.

•Under the best-case scenario, the 2014 schedule will bear a striking resemblance to the 2013 slate with 466 dates at the state’s five pari-mutuel tracks.

•Under the worst-case scenario, next year’s schedule will bear no resemblance to this year’s thoroughbred and harness dates, consisting of a combined total of 87 programs and leaving the state with only one harness track. [Emphasis added.]

Not mentioned in the Trib’s dot points is that the “best-case scenario” includes a “supplemental state payment” of at least $725,000.

* The problem has been the lack of Internet wagering income for over five months this year and uncertainty over next year

The board depends on account-wagering handle for part of its funding and lost about $725,000 when the law permitting account-wagering companies to operate in Illinois was allowed to expire Jan. 31 and wasn’t restored until June 7. Unaltered, the law expires again on Jan. 31, so the board can’t know if it will have enough money to fulfill its statutory obligations for a full racing season.

The board will request a supplemental payment from the state to plug the hole left by the 2013 account-wagering shutdown, and the legislature, when it meets for a fall session starting Oct. 22, will be asked to extend the account-wagering law. How racing is conducted next year in Illinois depends on how much of that money actually flows to the IRB. Because of the uncertainty the board approved four possible schedules.

What a screw up this was.

* In other news, Phil Kadner looks at video gaming’s growth

There now are 9,794 [video gaming] machines operating at 2,402 locations, according to the Illinois Gaming Board, which is the equivalent of adding nine casinos. […]

But an entirely new industry has emerged in recent months, video cafes, designed specifically to appeal to the gambler.

Although most of these offer food and alcoholic drinks, they’re marketed as places where suburbanites can lose their money in comfortable surroundings without being bothered by drunks.

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury is so concerned about the increase in video gambling in her village that she has asked the state senator from the area to introduce legislation that could limit the number of locations.

Oak Lawn appears to be the leader in the Southland in the number of sites with video gambling, having 18 locations and 83 video machines.

In August, gamblers lost $319,338 in the machines, producing $15,966 in tax revenue for Oak Lawn and $79,834 for the state.

I was talking with somebody who owns several locations that have video gaming machines, and he said he hopes the Legislature passes a bill to limit the number of new machines and locations. Why? Because such a law would mean less competition for him.

* Back to Kadner

I’ve always been a free-market guy when it comes to legalized gambling. So long as the operations have no ties to organized crime and the machines pay off as advertised, I think they should be allowed to proliferate.

By limiting the number of casinos, all the state has done is give a small group of people a license to make lots of money.

Now, they have some competition in video gambling, and businesses in the suburbs are getting a piece of the action.

But the law of supply and demand is still being denied by elected officials, who seem to believe they can limit vice by tightly regulating it.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Stones - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 9:42 am:

    The reason for riverboat gambling initially was to give hard-hit rust belt communities an economic shot in the arm. Focus on the original intent was lost a long time ago. We are becoming the Atlantic City of the Midwest at this pace.

  2. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 9:42 am:

    Too often, elected officials believe they can dictate the market — their actions always cause unintended consequences.

  3. - downstate hack - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 9:49 am:

    The racing board has a point. Illinois legislators need to renew the account-racing to avoid last years’s fiasco when it was not allowed during the best racing of the year (Triple Crown), because of typical Illinois legislative idiocy.

  4. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 10:00 am:

    Cannot wait until we have gaming machines on Metra trains.

    Slogan: “Lose your paycheck… on your way to earn it!”

    Next stop, The Wild West, full speed ahead. We’ve already got the saloons at Union Station.

  5. - Coach - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 10:11 am:

    The racing board has a huge point! Again it was the Governor and Legislature’s failure to renew the account wagering bill last Jan. 31 to cause them to loose the $750,000.00 plus all the tax money the state would have received! Plain Stupidity on their part.

    Also people will just go to other states to gamble so why not keep that tax money here. I know its hard to fix stupid but please Governor and Legislatures do your job! You could of pass the gambling bill and the tracks wouldn’t be in this situation! I traveled up to Super Night a few weeks ago, it took me 3 hours to get there and it was the first time live for me. It was wonderful and I plan to go back! But now it might not happen if the leaders can’t do their job. I feel for all the people that could loose their jobs if they don’t pass a gambling bill this time around.

  6. - A guy... - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 10:16 am:

    The law of diminishing returns continues to spiral with legalized gambling.

  7. - OneMan - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 10:27 am:

    In terms of regulating the number of locations for video poker you run into a host of issues..

    – Who decides who gets and who doesn’t. Unless the licensing system was FIFO (first in first out), you can’t use date of license. You leave that up to local officials you open the whole ‘mob’ can of worms again and worse.

    – Would ‘private’ clubs be outside the limits or not? Since they are not publicly accessible machines.

    How bad is the cannibalization between locations? Since they state only puts out the machine statistics in PDF format (really, can’t extract it from your system as a CSV guys) it is hard to do month to month analysis for locations.

    Hell yeah if I had machines, I would want to be the last guy allowed to get a machine.

  8. - Been There - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 10:37 am:

    ===Sandra Bury is so concerned about the increase in video gambling in her village===
    She could limit the number of liquor licenses in her town

  9. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 10:43 am:

    === Since they state only puts out the machine statistics in PDF format (really, can’t extract it from your system as a CSV guys) it is hard to do month to month analysis for locations. ===

    @OneMan — If the state maintains or can easily provide the data you are seeking in a different format… if you file a FOIA, the state has to provide it in that format. There is a key court case on this between Cook County and some union that wanted data in a digestible format — not just printouts — the union prevailed in court — the court opined, essentially, that the government must provide, when possible, data in workable, usable format.

  10. - Roamin' Numeral - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 10:46 am:

    Please extend Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW). And while we’re at it, can we extend ADW far into the future so that we don’t have to go through this every year? Better yet, can we just legalize it without a sunset date?

  11. - Hoi Polloi - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 11:25 am:

    Balmoral was crowded on Super Night (9/14/13). A local marching band played the anthem, drivers were recognized, and the purses for IL conceived and foaled were more like those seen more frequently a decade ago.

    As recently as the 90s there were two meets a day at harness tracks in the Chicago area.

    The IL legislature seems bent on killing horse racing in our state.

    Absolutely no reason the tracks shouldn’t have slots and table games.

    If legislators aren’t going to actively support our tracks, at least don’t sabotage them.

    As for the fine citizens expressing concern about compulsive gambling, consider directing a portion of that concern at arena subsidies, the money & time diverted from families to tickets and parking at “major” league events, and the national addiction to spending on pay/cable/dish TV.

  12. - Hoi Polloi II - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 11:42 am:

    …& foaled???

  13. - downstate hack - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 11:42 am:

    Agree completely with Hoi Polloi. Illinois horse racing is the only gambling endeavor that produces real jobs and invests much of its return into an Illinois racing industry.

  14. - Been There - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 12:07 pm:

    ===it is hard to do month to month analysis for locations===
    Not sure when the effective date is, but one of the various video gaming bills that passed in the spring would not allow the gaming board to give out individual location data. They would be limited to data totals for each town.

  15. - Been There - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 12:15 pm:

    Actually, I stand corrected. Ignore my above comment. It appears they took out the prohibition of decimating location information in SB 1738. The original bill had the language but the amendment took it out.

  16. - Anthony - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 12:55 pm:

    I have generally been in favor of every gaming expansion that has come down the pike…but I kinda see that mayor’s point. Sure, she can control liquor licenses, but she can’t control gaming licenses. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want locals involved in deciding who gets gaming licenses…that’s very dangerous. But shouldn’t they have some say in regulating how much gaming goes on in their town, particularly now that there are businesses opening that are essentially casinos first and taverns second, instead of the other way around?

  17. - OneMan - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 2:38 pm:

    Just Observing –

    Didn’t know that, I have had some interesting e-mail and FOIA conversations with the board about that. I was unaware of the case that says they have to give it to me in that format. They say it is coming….

  18. - OneMan - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 2:39 pm:

    But shouldn’t they have some say in regulating how much gaming goes on in their town, particularly now that there are businesses opening that are essentially casinos first and taverns second, instead of the other way around?

    You can legislate them away in your town if you want, that is why you don’t have any in Chicago.

  19. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 3:18 pm:

    @OneMan — I can’t locate the name name of the case. But I do know that the IL AG’s Public Access Counselor gave an informal opinion on a similar case against the Village of Skokie. If you need ammunition… FOIA from the AG’s PAC their opinion from a Request for Review against the Village of Skokie… the AG ruled in favor of the complainant that was seeking records in Excel but the Village would only provide in PDF.

  20. - Handle this - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 4:16 pm:

    Perhaps this law that was passed in 1999 and gives racetracks huge real estate tax breaks is a bigger reason than ADW as to why the IRB has no money.

  21. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Sep 25, 13 @ 4:35 pm:

    Please, we should stop saying folks are losing money while gambling. We should, instead, be calling it a form of investment. And the payoffs could be g8! Thanks should go to all the fools, er, investors for their commitment to the fiscal solvency of the state.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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