The Illinois Racing Board (IRB), in an effort to throw a lifeline to the state’s struggling horseracing industry, has agreed to move forward with planning for implementation of wagering on historical horse racing terminals at the state's three remaining racetracks.
Historical racing terminals are slot machine-like terminals in which players, using highly limited past performance information, bet on videos of previously run races. Such terminals are credited with fortifying the racing industry in Kentucky, where they are in widespread use.
Thursday, without objection, the full board accepted a report from an IRB committee declaring that historical horse racing is pari-mutuel wagering, as defined under Illinois law, and could be implemented without legislative action. IRB staff has been directed to draft formal rules to be considered by the board.
A court challenge to the machines is expected because anti-gambling groups in Illinois steadfastly oppose any expansion. State racetracks have been continually foiled in efforts to get lawmakers to allow casino gambling or slot machines at racetracks as the proliferation of casinos and slots availability at other venues in Illinois continues to undermine the state’s horseracing industry.
Additionally, before historical horse racing could be implemented, regulations would have to be approved by the IRB and the governor's staff, then submitted to and approved by the legislature's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.
Fairmount Park in downstate Collinsville, Ill., and Hawthorne Race Course in suburban Chicago actively support the historical horseracing proposal. Arlington International Racecourse, the report noted, is neutral.
Two of five state tracks have closed in the last several years and the live dates of thoroughbred race meetings have declined by more than 40 percent.