Is the Illinois horse racing industry nearly finished?
October 23, 2013 (CRETE, Ill.) (WLS) -- There is concern about the future of Illinois' horse racing industry. The state racing board is asking lawmakers for hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to make up for money lost last year when online betting was suspended for months.
Balmoral Park is the only racetrack in the state that is operating Wednesday night. The track runs year-round, but the schedule could be dramatically changed without action from the state legislature.
It's an exciting race down the stretch to the finish line in the first race of the night at Balmoral Park.
Some in the racing industry are worried Illinois horse racing may be nearly finished. The racing board needs $750,000 because the legislature delayed approving online wagering last year. The industry also needs lawmakers to extend legislation to allow online wagering for the coming year.
"It's critical for the racing industry, there's a lot of jobs at stake," said Marc Laino, Illinois Racing Board.
Marc Laino runs the Illinois Racing Board. He just returned from Springfield Wednesday night after the legislature ended the session without taking action to provide funding.
Without that money, the racing dates for next year for the two harness racing tracks in the state would be reduced from 252 dates this year to just 13 next year.
"The fiscal cliff is here, and it really is here for 2014," said Tony Somone, Illinois Harness Horseman's Association.
Thoroughbred tracks including the most profitable, Arlington Park, would face similar cuts without action from lawmakers.
Experts say most tracks are barely hanging on financially hoping the legislature will allow slot machines at tracks which they hope would provide a big cash infusion.
"We all know the Illinois horseracing industry needs slots at tracks, we need to compete with other states that already have it," said Mike Belmonte, Balmoral Park.
There are four different schedules possible for Illinois horse racing tracks, depending on how the legislature decides to fund them.
illinois news, john garcia
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