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Language of law keeping money from Ill. horse racing industry

Horses speed around the track at Fairmount Park Racetrack in Collinsville, Ill.
(Robert Altman)
Horses speed around the track at Fairmount Park Racetrack in Collinsville, Ill.

$2.6 million dollars is waiting to be distributed to Illinois’ horse racing industry but the law’s wording is keeping that from happening.

More than a decade ago Illinois legislators promised horse tracks 15 percent of the tenth casino’s gross revenue receipts.

That license was caught up in the courts for years.

Finally a new owner opened the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines in July, yet the portion slated for horse racing remains in the state’s Gaming Fund.

Brad Hahn, a spokesman with the Comptroller’s office, says that’s because the law states the money “shall be paid" rather than “transferred.”

And without an appropriation from the General Assembly, the Gaming Board can’t send the money.

"The short of it… right now there’s no mechanism to move the money from the state Gaming Fund to the Horse Racing Equity Fund,” Hahn said.

While Hahn says that’s expected to be worked out in the upcoming veto session, the executive director of the Illinois Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association at Fairmount Park Racetrack, Lanny Brooks, says the money won’t make a big difference.

“We have five race tracks and then the horse tracks get half of it and the horsemen’s purse get the other half," Brooks said. "So when you divvy it up that way it’s not the panacea; it’s not the answer.”

Brooks says the answer would be for the governor to sign the gambling bill allowing slot machines at racetracks.

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.