Great Tradition, Broad Implications
Statewide, Arlington Park is a foundation for the $2.5 billion Illinois horse racing and breeding program, which supports thousands of workers from breeders and trainers to feed suppliers.
Horse racing cannot survive in Illinois without positive action from the General Assembly to level our playing field with other racing jurisdictions. Other states did not stand still while Illinois repeatedly considered and failed to enact a remedy to resolve the unintended harm that approval of riverboat gaming caused the racing industry. Illinois is now surrounded by states allowing racetracks to offer alternative gaming to supplement their purse accounts – the economic engine of racing. Indiana is the most recent addition; Illinois tracks now compete directly with racetracks in both Indiana and Iowa.
Racing is not immune to the laws of supply and demand. As other states provide for increased purses and as new tracks with alternative gaming enter the market, it is inevitable that there will be losers as well as winners and that some existing tracks will close. The Illinois horse racing industry, which supports thousands of agribusiness jobs statewide, needs the active support of the General Assembly to remain viable.
Allowing electronic gaming at tracks would ensure the continued support and generation of good paying jobs that are stable around the year. It would create a stable and growing tax base and additional resources for local and state governments to address public priorities. It also will support existing businesses in Chicagoland and Metro East for decades to come.
In short, allowing electronic gaming at tracks would ensure the survival of the state’s $2.5 billion horse racing and breeding industry, which directly and indirectly supports tens of thousands of fulltime agribusiness jobs.
When horse racing suffers, the larger Illinois economy – particularly downstate – suffers too. In this fragile economy, it’s just as important to protect existing jobs such as those of downstate horse breeders as it is to create new ones. Unlike other major forms of gaming, the strength of the horse racing industry truly ripples through the larger Illinois economy.
It makes sense for lawmakers to permit gaming machines at tracks:
- The state’s horse racing tracks are existing, established destination-gaming venues that have managed pari-mutuel gaming for decades.
- Gaming activity at tracks is centralized and highly regulated.
Horse racing must have flexibility in its business model to compete with emerging market forces across the nation and around the world. In order to survive, horse racing must meet the broader entertainment expectations of the public.