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posted: 1/25/2014 5:00 AM

Keep horse racing healthy in Illinois

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Illinois legislators will reconvene in Springfield on Wednesday to hear Gov. Pat Quinn's State of the State address. It is also imperative that they take the time to pass legislation allowing Advance Deposit Wagering.

ADW allows horse racing fans to bet on horse races online. This is not a new law. It has been legal since 2009 but is due to sunset on Jan. 31. A percentage of ADW wagers fund the Illinois Racing Board, which regulates horse racing. Without ADW funds the IRB cannot sufficiently carry out their responsibilities. Consequently, harness racing would see a 95 percent reduction in racing dates, going from racing 251 days in 2013 to just 13 days in 2014. Such dramatic cuts will effectively kill Illinois horse racing and the thousands of jobs it creates.

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Let me be clear. We are not asking for a handout. We simply want to do what we love and earn an honest paycheck. But this bill, which is supported unanimously in the horse racing industry, must pass first.

Illinois horse racing employs more than 15,000 men and women. Because of horse racing in Illinois, not only do trainers, drivers, jockeys and caretakers have jobs but blacksmiths, veterinarians, breeders and racetrack workers such as IRB personnel, security, electricians, waiters, bartenders and tellers. Horse racing and breeding are also vital to agricultural business. These are real jobs for real people throughout Illinois.

It is reasonable to assume that the General Assembly would be eager to promote and nurture an industry that provides revenue and jobs in a state that is hungry for just those things. Our racing season is scheduled to begin Feb. 5. We urge all lawmakers to encourage leadership to call this critical piece of legislation on Wednesday and show your support with a yes vote.

Dave McCaffrey

President

Illinois Harness Horseman's Association

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