Plan to allow historical racing terminals being advanced by Illinois Board

Plan to allow historical racing terminals being advanced by Illinois Board

June 29, 2018 9:05 AM
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A plan that would allow “historical racing” terminals at Illinois racetracks is being advanced by the Illinois Racing Board, reports The Chicago Tribune. This, despite the board’s attorney cautioning that such machines would be illegal.

The board voted 7-0 Tuesday to form a committee to prepare rules to allow the terminals as a means of saving the state’s racing business, a business that has been in steep decline before, during and since the state liberalized its gambling laws over recent years.

“We need it,” board member Robert Schiewe Jr. said, referring to the struggling horseracing industry. “We’re out of time.”

Opponents view the measure as a way of skirting state laws that do not permit slots at state racetracks. Track owners have tried for almost 20 years to get state lawmakers to allow casino-type gambling at their facilities, without success.

Advocates say the terminals should be viewed as an offshoot of regular pari-mutuel wagering on horses. Kentucky horseracing has been bolstered in recent years by new state regulations that have allowed use of the historical racing terminals at several state racetracks.

Racing board member Thomas McCauley argued against creating a committee, saying that would only delay the process, and advocated the board follow the lead of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which authorized historical horse racing without new action by lawmakers.

“It could immediately result in some extra revenue,” he said.

Virginia recently legalized historical horseracing terminals, joining Arkansas, Kentucky, Oregon and Wyoming. The change in Virginia is expected to result in the re-opening of Colonial Downs, the shuttered track between Richmond and Williamsburg.

The amount bet on Illinois horse races has nosedived 40 percent between 2006 and 2016, dropping from a peak of $1.2 billion in 1990 to less than half of that last year, according to a state statistics. The Illinois racing industry must compete with nearby states such as Indiana and Iowa that have tracks that include casinos, in addition to casinos in Illinois, The Illinois Lottery and, most recently, video gambling terminals in small bars nearly statewide.

Historical racing terminals allow players to wager on random races from years ago.

The board committee is expected to report back in July. To take effect, any proposed changes subsequently would have to be approved by the state Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, made up of state lawmakers.