Ill. racing purses suffer while lawmakers sit on fund

Apr 29, 2013 10:03 AM

When Illinois lawmakers licensed a riverboat casino in Des Plaines, they set up a special fund to help the state’s horse racing industry survive the competition.

Sounded good at the time to horsemen but they now wonder when will the money be released.

A recent audit found more than $115 million that was supposed to be transferred to the horse tracks just sitting in the special account.

According to Auditor General William Holland, 15% of the Des Plains gross receipts were targeted for the Horse Racing Equity Fund and 2% to Chicago State University. But, the money was never transferred to the rightful recipients.

And with Illinois being so cash-starved, there are serious concerns that the money will ever reach their targeted goal. In the last session of the legislature, a bill was introduced to have $17.6 million transferred out of the state gaming fund and placed in the Horse Racing Equity Fund. Another $70.4 million would have gone to a school fund.

Things would have looked brighter had Gov. Pat Quinn not vetoed a gaming expansion bill that would have permitted the horse tracks to operate slot machines. An effort in the state senate to write a bill that Quinn would approve is now underway.

Meanwhile, the horse tracks continue to clamber, without success, for their portion of the casino revenues that by law was designated for them. 

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