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Comments On Ill./Supreme Court Decision

Published: June 11, 2009 2:18 pm ET

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Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to decline to hear the appeal of a 2008 Illinois Supreme Court ruling that upheld legislation directing four Illinois riverboat casinos to pay an impact fee to the Illinois horse racing industry, should clear the way for distribution of nearly $80 million that was being held in escrow to Illinois tracks and horsemen.

The Illinois Racing Board will administer the money according to Marc Laino, executive director of the Illinois Racing Board, shortly after the July 14 Illinois Racing Board meeting, being held to certify the distribution.

Based on the agreed upon share for harness racing, the purse accounts at Balmoral and Maywood Parks will wind up with a $20 million credit while the tracks will pick up some $13 million for marketing efforts and capital improvements. Those totals will increase purses at the harness tracks by 40% immediately after the July 14 certification, and with reliability continue through the 2011 racing season.

Illinois Harness Horseman’s Association president and Maywood Park’s leading trainer David McCaffrey was pleased with Monday’s events.

“This is going to have a very significant impact on our purses here. Everyone has worked so hard for so long to get this done and now those of us racing in Illinois are going to get to reap the rewards thanks to this ruling”.

Phil Langley, the director of racing for both Maywood & Balmoral Park, echoed those same sentiments.

“After years of seeing other states moving ahead of Illinois because of legislative relief this action will start to get us back on track again as we try to be among the upper echelon of harness tracks with regard to purse money,” said Langley. “We have held our position of being one of the top two tracks in the U.S. in regard to wagering on our product and with this increase in purses Maywood and Balmoral will be among the leaders in annual purses paid as well.”

The improved purse structure should also have a positive effect on the breeding industry in Illinois according to Kenneth (Doc) Walker, owner of Walker Standardbreds, the largest breeding facility in the Prairie State.

“I really think the bigger purses will help us tremendously in terms of the yearling sales and we could see that as soon as this August’s sale,” he explained. “Once owners see that they can race and make good money here in Illinois they’re not only going to purchase yearlings here but also breed their mares to Illinois stallions. This is definitely a step in the right direction.”


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