May 10th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

Wild Conspiracy in the lead on the back stretch

But a cloud hangs over the track. A bill has been introduced in the Illinois Legislature that would allow slot machines at horse tracks — something the racing industry has long said it needs — but an amendment has been added to the bill that would exclude Fairmount. Every track in Illinois except Fairmount would get slots.

The amendment was the work of state Rep. Robert Rita. He cited concerns about East St. Louis. He said that East St. Louis is so dependent on revenue from the Casino Queen that any decrease in that revenue would “compromise the safety of the people from East St. Louis.”

Rita is a Democrat from Blue Island. That’s in Cook County. In fact, his district includes parts of the far south side of Chicago. I grew up one block outside of his district. I cannot recall anybody in my old neighborhood ever expressing concern about the people of East St. Louis. For that matter, I doubt if we knew that East St. Louis was in Illinois.

So why would Rita be worried about the well-being of people so far removed from his district? That is grist for conspiracy theorists, but before getting into that, let me give you a little background.

For several years, the Illinois Legislature has been trying to come up with a bill that would expand gaming in Illinois. New casino licenses would be issued. The impetus comes from Chicago. City officials complain they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year to casinos across the border in Indiana.

Part of the gaming expansion would allow slot machines at racetracks. Track owners point out that slots are allowed at tracks in Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Arkansas. Industry officials say the machines have breathed new life into the tracks. The slots mean more revenue, which means bigger purses, which means better horses and more racing dates. That means more jobs.

Twice in the last three years, the Illinois Legislature has passed a gaming expansion bill only to have it vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn, who has expressed concerns mainly about the public ownership of the proposed Chicago mega-casino.

The current bill would authorize five new casinos. In addition to a casino in downtown Chicago, one would be just south of the city — in Rita’s neck of the woods. That brought Rita into the game. I chatted with him a couple of times this past week in an effort to figure this out.

Who stands to gain if the gaming bill doesn’t pass? The current license holders. They’ll have another year without having to share gaming revenue. Also, the casinos in Indiana will be big winners if the bill stalls. Who stands to gain the most if the bill passes? Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The other locations that will get the new casinos, including the southern suburbs. Who’s in charge of putting the bill together? The Illinois Legislature.

No wonder conspiracy theorists are busy. Let’s pretend this is a horse race. Pick the winner yourself.

1. Big-Hearted Pol — No games here. Rita is a rare breed of politician. He truly cares about the people of East St. Louis.

2. Don’t Turn Your Back — Rita is working on behalf of somebody other than his constituents. He hopes to scuttle the bill.

3. Loves a Queen — Rita wants to pass a bill, but he’s working on the side for the Casino Queen. Why not do two things at once?

4. Anybody But You — Rita doesn’t like Fairmount Park. Plain and simple.

5. Cook County Chrome — Rita represents an area that wants a casino, and he’s ready to do whatever it takes to get the bill passed. He’s got some colleagues from East St. Louis who could bring the Black Caucus into the fray if he doesn’t get some concessions from Fairmount. That’s why he wants to protect East St. Louis. He says the owner of the track — that would be William Stiritz — is a rich guy who is used to getting his own way. Rita figures the amendment excluding Fairmount is the best way to get the owner’s attention.

That last one sounds like the favorite to me, except that track manager Brian Zander has argued — persuasively, I think — that most of the track’s customers drive past the Casino Queen to get to Fairmount. He doesn’t think the track will be taking much business from the casino. Also, the original bill sent part of the new tax revenue to East St. Louis.

By the way, Rita sent a letter Friday to his “metro East colleagues in the General Assembly.” He said he proposed his amendments to spark debate. He said he’s hoping for a compromise.

The race is on.

​Bill McClellan is a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Read his columns here.

Bill McClellan

Bill McClellan worked as a reporter in Phoenix before coming to the Post-Dispatch in 1980. He was night-police reporter before becoming a columnist in 1983. He also appears on Channel 9′s Donnybrook.

Doctor and Dentist, license office, New H.B.P.A. Lounge

April 25th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks
Just a reminder, we will have a medical clinic with Dr. David Dunn, on Thursday, May 1, 2014. If this goes well, I will schedule him twice a month and pretty much adhere to the schedule that I sent you. We need your help getting the word out to the horseman.  Also, Dr. Connolly (Dentist) will be returning on Monday, initially with an abbreviated schedule.
The license office is open. Schedule is Saturday April 26, Monday through Wednesday April 28 through 30.
The new H.B.P.A. Lounge will open Monday morning April 28th at 6 am.

Roscoe Johnson R.I.P.

April 19th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

We’re sorry to report that long time Fairmount horsemen Roscoe Johnson (Father of our paddock judge and clocker Mark “MJ”) passed away April 17th. Our condolences go out to his family. Arrangements are pending.

First Entry Date For Fairmount

April 8th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

Papers must be in office by Tuesday April 22 to get the OE date.

Governor Talks About Gaming Bill

April 8th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

Gov. Quinn addresses the media at a Monday news conference announcing $100 million for Illinois roads.

Quinn open on gaming expansion: ‘Could come up this year’

MON, 04/07/2014 – 1:50PM

Gov. Pat Quinn is open to a gaming expansion proposal as long as ethical restrictions were put in place, he said on Monday, adding that work on the issue was headed in the right direction.

“I’ve said this before there are fundamental principles that apply to a casinoin Chicago or elsewhere. You’ve got to have strong ethical standards and they have to be enforced and I think it has to be done by the independent Illinois Gaming Board. I think we should also prohibit casino owners from giving campaign contributions to politicians. I think we’re moving the right direction on that. I also think any of the resources that come from a casino have to go toward important purposes that really matter, they should be fundamental priorities,” Quinn said Monday. “I think that issue could come up this year. I’m always willing to sit down with the City of Chicago or any other people on this issue. But it has to follow these fundamental principles.”

New Track Hours

March 24th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

Starting Monday March 31 the track will be open for training from 7 am until 11:30 am. Break time will be at 9 am.

Condition Book #1

March 21st, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

The first condition book is on line at Just click on Racing and note the purse increases.

New Track Veterinarian

March 20th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

We are pleased to welcome Doctor Tegan Easton and Doctor Amy Adams to Fairmount Park. They will fill the position of  track Vet. when the 2014 meeting begins. Doctor Easton comes from California with excellent credentials and we are excited to have her with us. Doctor Adams has a current practice and will bring much knowledge and experience to the job. We are thrilled to have them both and look forward to them getting to know all of you.

Attention Horsemen

March 20th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

I’m happy to announce that the H.B.P.A. Board of Directors has reached an agreement with Fairmount on a very beneficial purse schedule. The two new items are as follows: The bottom purse of $5,000 will be increased to $6,000 when a minimum of eight horses participate in the race. Also, the Illinois Maiden Special Weight purse will be $12,000. Also the book will feature an other than Allowance/NW2 life with a purse of $13,000. Note: the Illinois races do not depend on field size and there is no claiming price attached to the other than race. This will reward owners and trainers of Illinois conceived and or foaled horses and hopefully encourage horsemen to breed horses in Illinois .

Industry Letter To Rep. Rita

March 20th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

The Honorable Bob Rita

State Representative

March 20, 2014

281-S Stratton Office Building Springfield, IL 62706

Dear Representative Rita,

As you know, for several years the Illinois Horse Racing Industry has advocated for passage of legislation to authorize electronic gaming at racetracks, which would put our state on par with neighboring horse racing states and help ensure the long-term survival of our industry and its many jobs.  That carefully negotiated, agreed legislation reflects a balancing of interests among all segments of the industry.  HB744, SB1849, and most recently SB1739 have provided for gaming at racetracks (1200 positions for Cook County tracks and 900 for downstate tracks) that would enable tracks to make an investment of capital to generate gaming revenue to support the horse racing industry through enhanced purses.  Almost 3,000 new gaming jobs will be created at these racetracks, plus approximately 1,000 temporary construction jobs to build facilities to conduct electronic gaming.  The racetracks are projected to generate almost $100 million annually in taxes, plus over $400 million in licensing fees to the state. Most importantly, many thousands of agri-business jobs (and their associated taxes and economic activity) will be preserved.

The fact sheet accompanying your recent press release indicated you planned to introduce two separate amendments to SB1739.  The first would not include any measures to assist horse racing and would provide for a Chicago casino only.  The Horse Racing Industry would oppose that amendment, as it would only exacerbate the disadvantage horse racing currently has in the Illinois gaming market.  The second amendment cuts in half the amount of gaming positions allocated for racetracks and eliminates positions at Fairmount Park.  The Horse Racing Industry also opposes this amendment.  In addition to effectively eliminating the Horse Racing Industry in Southern Illinois, the decrease in gaming positions will not enable Illinois racing to be competitive with racing in other states that allow gaming at their tracks. We implore you to restore the gaming positions at racetracks to the numbers that were proposed in the earlier bills, to maximize state revenues and job creation.

We respectfully ask that you reconsider this matter and retain the negotiated, industry-agreed language dealing with electronic gaming at tracks.

With greatest respect,

 Dave McCaffrey
Illinois Harness
Horsemen Association

Mike Campbell
Illinois Thoroughbred
Horsemen’s Association

Gene Allen
Illinois Quarter Horse

Lanny Brooks Illinois Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association

Tony Petrillo
Arlington International

Brian Zander
Fairmount Park Racecourse

Tim Carey Hawthorne Racecourse

John Johnston
Balmoral Park Racecourse

William “Duke” Johnston
Maywood Park Racecourse