Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Dying Illinois Race Tracks Seek Gambling Expansion

Industry leaders say they can't survive without new forms of revenue

Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    8/12/2014: Industry leaders say they can't survive without new forms of revenue. NBC 5's Carol Marin reports. (Published Tuesday, Aug 12, 2014)

    The Illinois horse racing industry believes the time is now to allow racing at their facilities, or else hundreds of jobs will be on the line.

    Horse tracks in states like Ohio, Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania allow slot machines and other forms of gambling, but Illinois has been resistant.

    In the last four years, two bills that would have increased the number of casinos in the state and include slots for horse tracks were vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn, due in part to the oversight of a proposed Chicago casino.

    Horse trainer Dave McCaffrey began his career in 1991 and stables 25 standard-bred horses at Maywood Park. He says they are not looking for government handouts.

    "We don’t want a subsidy," McCaffrey said. "We just want to be competitive with other states that allow this form of gambling."

    The opposition has fallen on two fronts -- riverboat casino operators have long argued that slots at race tracks would cut into their business, while opponents to any forms of gambling have fought additional expansion.

    But the horse racing industry says a new form of revenue is imperative to stay alive.

    Stables everywhere have been hard hit by rising costs. A $2.50 bale of hay now runs $9, and what once was a $6 bag of grain is now $18. McCaffrey says annual purses have dropped from $40 million in 1990 to about $14 million today.

    "There are people here who are in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s who have done nothing other than this," McCaffrey says.