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updated: 8/19/2011 9:29 AM

Will Illinois governor Pat Quinn choose to save Illinois horse racing?

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  • Associated Press Governor Pat Quinn holds the fate of Illinois horse racing in his hands, according to Barry Rozner

      Associated Press Governor Pat Quinn holds the fate of Illinois horse racing in his hands, according to Barry Rozner

  • Tony Petrillo, general manager of Arlington Park, says the legislation to allow slot machines at race tracks "is essential to preserving the 35,000 jobs the racing industry creates."

       Tony Petrillo, general manager of Arlington Park, says the legislation to allow slot machines at race tracks "is essential to preserving the 35,000 jobs the racing industry creates."
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Jamie Spencer, riding Cape Blanco, wins the Arlington Million at Arlington Park on Saturday.

       Jamie Spencer, riding Cape Blanco, wins the Arlington Million at Arlington Park on Saturday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

It would be impossible to guess just exactly what it is that Pat Quinn has against the horse racing industry.

Maybe it's nothing. Maybe he just doesn't like the concept of gambling expansion this quickly, and maybe it's oversight, as he says it is, but he also hasn't clearly explained his concerns as related to slots at the racetracks.

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Either way, the governor is on the verge of burying horse racing in Illinois forever and killing tens of thousands of jobs in the process.

That's a distinct possibility if the tracks don't get slots, and that appears to be the biggest problem Quinn has with a gambling bill that passed the house and senate at the end of May.

It hasn't been placed on Quinn's desk because supporters of the bill expect the governor's veto.

So after years of excruciating negotiations, while bill after bill has gone down to defeat, the state finally has a bill for the governor to sign that could save horse racing in Illinois and it seems as though he has no particular use for it.

Specifically, he has a problem with slots at the tracks, and that opposition is almost certain to shut the doors at some Illinois tracks, perhaps even Arlington Park.

"The horse racing industry accounts for more jobs in the state of Illinois than any area other than government," said Arlington Park GM Tony Petrillo. "This legislation is essential to preserving the 35,000 jobs the racing industry creates."

Without better purses generated by slots, owners and trainers will continue to leave Illinois for better racing in Indiana and other states.

Breeders will also depart or simply get out of the business, and the trickle-down effect of jobs lost -- particularly in agriculture -- could be as high as 50,000, which is a frightening thought for most Illinois politicians.

While costs have risen for horsemen, purses have fallen and the quality of racing has gone right along with it, as any racing fan will tell you.

That means fewer dollars wagered on Illinois racing both here and across the country. Do the math and the end result -- the end of horse racing -- is apparent.

Quinn seems most opposed to slots at the tracks and a casino in Chicago, seemingly the two most important parts of a bill also designed to help the financially troubled state create revenue and jobs.

The fact is the gambling dollars will be spent somewhere, and apparently having them leave for Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa or Missouri doesn't scare the governor.

Meanwhile, the tears shed for the boats if this gambling expansion occurs is a bit odd considering no one cried for the race tracks when the boats arrived and took a chunk out of horse racing's hide.

But on Governor's Day at the State Fair in Springfield on Wednesday, Quinn certainly made it sound like he's not going to sign the bill as is, and he isn't excited about adding slots at the race tracks.

So Illinois horse racing is on the verge of extinction. It's possible that with slots -- and an even playing field with tracks around the country that already possess slots -- the horsemen will stop closing up shop and will return to Illinois, which used to be one of the top racing destinations in the country.

Will horse racing in Illinois live or die? It's completely up to the governor now.

Promise kept

Tom Ricketts guaranteed that he would spend lavishly on player development and he just spent more on this year's draft -- and international signings -- than any Cubs team in history.

Here's hoping for his sake -- and for that of Cubs fans -- this will be remembered as money very well spent.

With prospects there's never any guarantee, but Ricketts really went for it in 2011 and for that he should be applauded.

It's certainly more appealing to Cubs fans than writing checks for more bad free agents that get you absolutely nowhere.

Congrats

To former White Sox slugger Jim Thome, on reaching 600 home runs.

"It's a big deal no matter what, but the reason it got so much attention is because he's as good a man as you could ever be around in baseball," Sox hitting coach Greg Walker said. "That's why everyone celebrated it. It's impossible not to love that man."

Especially happy were White Sox fans because Thome helped the Twins defeat the Tigers twice this week.

The quote

Ozzie Guillen: "I take it one day at a time. You will lead a better life that way. I don't worry about tomorrow when we win today and I don't think about today if we lose."

Sick or twisted?

It appears that Bengals owner Mike Brown has purposely selected Jordan Palmer as Cincinnati's No. 3 QB so that if Carson Palmer suddenly shows up, the first QB to get fired would be his brother.

Toilet Bowl

NCAA violations? At Miami? Really? At the U of all places? Shirley you can't be serious.

Mad scientist

Whose head will Mike Martz mess with next, the fourth-string fullback?

Make me laugh

Funniest email subject line seen Thursday: "2011 NBA preseason begins Sunday, Oct. 9."

Best headline

Sportspickle.com: "Carlos Zambrano trying to get away with behavior a good player might be able to get away with."

And finally ...

Omaha World-Herald's Brad Dickson: "The Lake County Fielders had to cancel a game in the second inning because they didn't have enough baseballs. L.A. Dodger fans, pay attention -- this is your future."

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM. Follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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