The state’s horse racing industry says it’s in trouble unless a pending gaming bill is approved. The bill calls for a Chicago casino and four other locations along with adding slots at racetracks. Breeders and trainers say the slots would generate revenue that could boost purses at places like Arlington and Hawthorne, making horse racing more competitive with the rest of the country.
Right now, the Illinois Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association says neighboring states are offering larger purses. In Iowa, purses are sometimes as high as $49,700. Compare that to the Illinois amount of $24,500.
Chris Block, a trainer at Arlington says, “As long as I’ve been training horses in Chicago, which is about 25 years I’ve never seen purses this low.”
Block fears that in the next year the industry will dwindle to the point that it can’t sustain itself.
While Gov. Quinn vetoed the bill twice before, Gov. Rauner seems to be more open to the idea. It’s likely the issue will come up in Springfield again this year. The Illinois Casino Gaming Association has been fighting the bill, saying it would oversaturate the market. They say the lower purses have more to do with the large number of races in Illinois and not competition from other states.