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Horse tracks need slots to compete
Letter to the Editor
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Published: 9/6/2010 12:01 AM

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The past month has been a time of bustling excitement in the horse racing industry. Besides regularly scheduled races at Arlington, Fairmount, Maywood and Balmoral, horse racing enthusiasts had the excitement of the state fair and the Arlington Million in Arlington Heights.

However, after more than a century of racing prominence, Illinois may soon lose this multibillion-dollar industry because of strict limitations on competition with other horse racing states.

Some people believe the industry is dead. The truth is, horse racing is not dead. It has simply not been allowed to thrive. Those who hear the death knell are sorely mistaken and need only look to other racing states to see vibrant examples of how the sport can flourish.

In states like Indiana, New York and Delaware, purse values can be six times those offered in Illinois. High purses draw Illinois horsemen, as well as their farms and business, to other states. As they leave, so do thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in state revenue.

States with superior racing use slot machines to augment their purses. In those states, the industry is hardly dead; it thrives.

Recently, horsemen have seen their live racing dates slashed, their purses dwindle to embarrassing lows, and their world class talent leaving for greener pastures.

Current legislation that has been written would invigorate Illinois' horse industry by allowing slot machines at racetracks, thus allowing fair competition with other horse racing states that have already diversified with slots.

The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and the Illinois Harness Horseman's Association encourage lawmakers to consider all the negative economic ramifications if this legislation is not passed during this fall veto session.

David McCaffrey

President

Illinois Harness Horseman's Association