Anwser to casino article in Sun Times written by Tony Somone I.H.H.A.

October 24th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks
Let’s set the record straight
Tom Swoik’s recent Op-Ed about slot machines at racetracks is misleading on several fronts.
“Special legislation to bail out their industry?”

In the early 90’s, legislation that waived the requirement that riverboats cruise off shore was passed with the cooperation of the horse racing industry. In return for their help, the horse racing industry was promised money from the yet to be built 10th riverboat. That law passed and casinos immediately went dockside, establishing their boats as land based casinos and raking in unprecedented amounts of money. The tenth riverboat license was subsequently tied up in courts for years and the horse racing industry was left staggering.

“A dying industry?”

Horse racing is not a dying industry. Illinois horse racing may be dying but in other states that allow slot machines at their racetracks it is successful and it is flourishing. Sixteen other states currently allow it. Many Illinois horsemen have already left, taking their horses and their team to other states like Indiana where the purses are higher and the opportunity to earn a fair living exists. Horsemen and their stables are similar to other small businesses. They set up their stables where they have the best opportunities for their families and for their horses to succeed. That business success is realized in the form of purses. Those purses have skyrocketed in other states while they continue to fall in Illinois.

“Illinois has a saturated gambling market?”

Here’s the red herring. These riverboats are simply protecting their own interests, including the Hammond Indiana riverboat that markets to the Chicagoland area. They are simply using the Legislature to block the competition. All we are saying is let us compete in this gaming marketplace, give us the opportunity to compete for those gaming dollars. Let the market dictate what saturation is. These same riverboats that are complaining now will be the same ones lining up to apply for these new licenses. Many of them currently own and operate racetracks around the country that have slot machines.

“Casino Cafes”

Isn’t it ironic that it is ok for the riverboats to want protection from these “casino cafes” but the horse racing industry is vilified for wanting that protection from the riverboats? Horse Racing has been in existence for over 100 years in this state. It is illogical for anyone to understand how there are these mini casinos on every corner, but a racetrack that supports the horse racing industry and the thousands of verified, middle class jobs that go along with its agribusiness cannot.

The casino industry is fond of touting the money that they provide to the state and the jobs that they provide. While those jobs are important and the cash influx is welcome, the impact that horse racing has on Illinois’ overall economy reaches much further. Horse racing stimulates agriculture, Illinois number one economy. Illinois grain and hay farmers find a market for their crops with horsemen. The Illinois horse racing industry impacts blacksmiths, veterinarians, truck and trailer dealers and more, something the casino industry can hardly claim. A robust horse racing industry provides good jobs that support families.

In seven months, June of 2015, without any legislative help from the Illinois General Assembly, Maywood Park, one of Chicago’s four racetracks will be the first to close its doors. A racetrack that has been in business since 1946, a business that has allowed horsemen to ply their trade and earn a living. The jobs that will be lost, the upheaval of the lives of all the backstretch workers who work and live there and the economic impact of that closure will be felt throughout Illinois.

LikeLike ·  · 

Pace to return

October 14th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

There has been some question as to the return of Bobby Pace as racing secretary at Fairmount. I can now put the rumors to rest. Bobby will return for the 2015 meet.

Free Flu Shots

October 14th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

Free flu shots will be give starting tomorrow morning at 10:30 in the medical trailer.

After tomorrow they will be given every other Wednesday until the supply runs out.

Rita weighs in on gaming status

October 13th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

Update On Video Gaming Bill In Illinois


 SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (IRN) - Video gambling has been legal for two years in Illinois, and there’s a difference of opinion of whether it’s the reason for a low tide for casinos in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

An annual report from the state’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability suggests a connection between video’s popularity and casinos’ decline. The fiscal year saw declines at every casino in the state except for the one in Des Plaines.

The House lawmaker who shepherds gambling legislation in the state reminds us video gambling has existed far longer than it’s been legal.

“Now you can actually see revenues” from video gambling, says State Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island). “They’re trying to say there’s a direct correlation; that it’s the same gamblers” abandoning casinos for video. Rita says it’s too soon to tell, in his opinion.

As for whether a gambling expansion bill can move in the New Year, Rita says it depends on two elections: for governor next month, and for mayor of Chicago next year. Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed the last such bill that passed.

(© Copyright 2014 Illinois Radio Network. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Share on email

Dates and News for 2015

October 1st, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

I have good news for horsemen at Fairmount. Today, the Illinois Racing Board awarded us 54 days for 2015. We were the only thoroughbred track to receive an increase of days. Dates for the other two tracks were cut by 21%.

We will start racing on March 24th and end on September 7th. The calendar will be available in a few days.

This schedule also has a positive effect on our down time training expense. Year round training has proven to be a winner for all who race here. It has allowed our horsemen to counteract the long period between meets by being able to race virtually year round. I believe the fact that we train even in the winter months was a factor in the board voting to allow us to start earlier next year. They even commented that they checked the weather bureau to find out that our average temperature was warmer than Chicago and that we have less snow.

Two Commissioners also complemented us on how we approach the board when we testify and they also are very impressed on our continued strong attendance. Ten years ago this would not have happened.

I’m happy that the Board has shown confidence in us and I’m sure we will prove them right by filling races next year. Keep in mind that we will again be racing for the highest purses in Fairmount history.

2015 will be a pivotal year for all five tracks in Illinois. We will be spending a lot of time in Springfield this coming spring in an effort to pass legislation that will allow racing in Illinois to survive and prosper.

Cullen and Kay weigh in on slots at Fairmount

September 29th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

A challenger for state representative in the district that covers Fairmount Park says the incumbent hasn’t done enough to help the horse-racing track get slot machines.

Democrat Cullen L. Cullen, of Edwardsville, says incumbent Rep. Dwight Kay, a Glen Carbon Republican, is “not really in favor of protecting jobs at Fairmount.”

Kay, however, says he’s been a leader in supporting Fairmount as well as the city of Collinsville, which is the home of Fairmount and stands to gain tax revenue from expanded gambling at the track.

The track itself isn’t picking sides in the race.

Fairmount and other Illinois horse-racing venues have been lobbying for years to get slot machines. Fairmount says it needs slots to survive, because horse owners are going to other states where slot-supported purses are bigger.

Efforts to expand Illinois gambling by adding casinos and adding slots at horse tracks have stalled in recent years, either because they couldn’t clear the state legislature or were vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

During debate on one bill in 2011, Kay spoke against the bill, saying a gambling expansion was not the way to create good jobs in Illinois. “The simple truth is, we know that this is going to create a lot of problems for the people who can least afford it, the most impoverished people who think they’re going to have a lucky day,” Kay argued.

In 2012, during debate on another gambling expansion bill, Kay said: “This is not a job creator, and frankly, what we’re doing to the people of the state of Illinois, we’re going to take money from those people who are least able to pay the price … for the privilege of casinos generating revenue.”

One of the most recent proposals for expanding gambling would allow slot machines at all horse tracks — except for Fairmount. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Robert Rita, D-Blue Island, cut out Fairmount — at least temporarily — because of a clash involving the cities of East St. Louis and Alton, and their casinos: the Casino Queen and Argosy Casino.

The cities are worried they and the casinos would lose revenue if Fairmount gets slot machines. East St. Louis gets about 40 percent of its revenue from casino taxes.

Rita’s bill at one point called for new tax revenue from Fairmount slots to go to East St. Louis, Alton and Collinsville. East St. Louis and Alton would both get 45 percent of the money under that plan, while Collinsville would get only 10 percent.

Kay has fought against the exclusion of Fairmount Park, and against the 45-45-10 division. Kay filed an amendment that would give 50 percent of the tax revenue to Collinsville, 25 to East St. Louis and 25 to Alton.

“Ever since a bill was introduced to exclude Fairmount Park from the gaming expansion, I have supported putting Fairmount back in the gaming bill, and I won’t give up fighting for Fairmount Park and Collinsville,” Kay said. “As it stands, there are not enough votes to pass a gaming bill unless Fairmount Park is included in the bill.”

Kay said Collinsville, as the home of the horse track, deserves a bigger share of the revenue, “and my bill would accomplish just that.”

Fairmount says it employs about 400 people.

Cullen said: “Kay has voted against protecting local jobs at Fairmount twice. And, on the floor of the House, Kay said bills to stabilize the track do not create jobs and should be rejected. I say, tell that to the people who work there now and the people who have lost their jobs due to lower track revenue over the years.”

Kay said: “This issue is about fairness, and I am disappointed my opponent is trying to make it a partisan issue. I didn’t see Cullen at my town hall meeting I held at Fairmount Park, however I did see many other Democrats and Republicans join me in supporting fairness for Fairmount.”

Fairmount spokesman Jon Sloane said: “Fairmount Park is certainly grateful for any help it can get in this initiative, but as a matter of policy, we consider it inappropriate to comment on the specifics of any political race.”

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at or 239-2511.

Gaming Sponsor visits Fairmount

September 18th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

We were very happy to spend the day with Representative Bob Rita and Representative Dan Beiser on Tuesday. Bob Rita of course is the House sponsor of the gaming bill. He drove down from Chicago to see what Fairmount Park is all about. He left with an image that he didn’t expect. He was very impressed with our large crowd and at the demographic of the crowd. He said he was really glad he came and that his opinion of the importance of the future of our track was now obvious to him.

Collinsville Mayor now supports slots at Fairmount

September 14th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

In an about face, Collinsville City Council supports slot machines at Fairmount Park

By   /  September 14, 2014  /

Just more than three years ago, Collinsville City Councilwoman Nancy Moss implored her fellow Council members to vote against a resolution allowing slot machines at Fairmount Park and other racetracks in Illinois.

“I’m begging you tonight to not pass this,” Moss said on June 27, 2011.

The entrance to Fairmount Park / Photo by Roger Starkey

By a 3-2, the Council voted down the resolution. Monday, by a 3-0 vote, the Council approved a resolution for the same purpose. Moss and Councilwoman Karen Woolard did not vote, choosing, instead, to abstain.

Councilman Mike Tognarelli, who introduced the resolution in 2011, and again Monday, was joined by Councilman Jeff Kypta and Mayor John Miller in support of the resolution.

Moss did not respond to multiple requests for comment, so it is not clear why she chose not to vote on the resolution. In the past, Moss has been outspoken in her opposition to gambling in Collinsville when voting against the previous Fairmount Park resolution and against allowing gaming machines, which were approved by the Council in Nov. 2012.

“If you take all of the moral issues out if, which I can’t do, but if you take all of that out of it, they have realized, whole states have realized, that it is not increasing their revenue, that it is not a positive thing,” Moss said in Nov. 2012, when speaking against allowing gaming machines in Collinsville.

Woolard, in an email statement following the meeting, explained why she did not vote on the resolution. Her heart goes out to the people who feel their jobs are at stake, Woolard said.

“I don’t want to see anyone jobless.  I also feel it is outrageous that our government would choose to ostracize Fairmount Park,” Woolard said. “It is just more proof of the problems in Springfield.”

Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, who introduced the gambling expansion bill, later introduced an amendment that excluded Fairmount Park due to concerns about the impact on the Casino Queen in East St. Louis. On May 9, Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, introduced an amendment that placed Fairmount Park back in the bill.

Woolard said she is concerned about the growth of the gambling industry in Illinois.

“Research shows that gambling does not benefit a community as much as people might think. Plus, it brings with it some negative aspects for the community,” Woolard said. “I did not support the introduction of video gambling into Collinsville in the first place, for these and other reasons. Thus, I could not support the addition of the machines at Fairmount Park.”

Woolard was elected to the City Council in 2013.

Kypta did not respond to multiple requests for comment on his vote. In 2011, he voted against the resolution, saying he was not in favor of gambling in Collinsville, nor did he want to see workers at Fairmount lose their jobs.

“I’ve had a lot of mixed feelings,” Kypta said in 2011. “I don’t see what this (resolution) would do to help. Maybe we can do something to promote the horse track better.”

In 2012, Kypta voted to allowing gaming machines in Collinsville. In meetings prior to the vote, Kypta said he was in favor of Collinsville residents providing guidance on the matter through a non-binding resolution.

When asked in Nov. 2012 if they were in favor of prohibiting gambling in Collinsville, voters, by a 1,300 vote margin, said “no.” The Council vote to allow gaming machines followed the non-binding resolution vote.

Speaking in 2011 just before the City Council vote, Miller said he did not see how supporting the addition of slot machines in Fairmount Park would help. He has since changed his mind and has supported an effort to have Fairmount Park included in the current statewide gambling expansion bill.

Public provides input to the Council

Seven speakers addressed the Council on the topic of the resolution prior to the vote Monday, many were from the group Fairness for Fairmount, which is working to ensure the Collinsville racetrack is included in the current gambling expansion bill being considered by the Illinois State Legislature.

See related story, (“Fairness for Fairmount continues fight to bring gaming to Fairmount Race Track“)

Collinsville Township Trustee Dennis Hill told the Council that the Township had unanimously passed a resolution at its annual meeting to support Fairness for Fairmount “due to the economic impact losing the track would have.” Fairmount Park employs 400 people and is estimated to employ another 600 indirectly.

Director of the Collinsville Chamber of Commerce Wendi Valenti told the Council that passing the resolution would be very influential to the downstate legislators who will vote on the gambling expansion bill.

Mead Dowling, of Collinsville, and a 36-year employee of Fairmount Race Track, said the track will not survive much longer without slot machines.

“If they don’t get the slots, they may open next year, but it’s not going to be a very long year,” Dowling said. The track was once open 256 days each year, but is now open 52.

Collinsville resident Phil Astrauskas was the only member of the audience to speak in opposition of the resolution.

“I can tell you everything I have read by every economist, every social person, says that gambling is not good for your community, I don’t care what it does,” Astrauskas said. “What are we going to do through gambling to improve the per capita income of the people who live in this community? Think about that.”

Speaking in 2011, Tognarelli said the resolution is more about saving a business that has been operating since 1925 than gambling.

“It’s more about support for Fairmount Race Track and what they have done for our community,” Tognarelli said.

– See more at:

Wisconsin Herpes Outbreak

September 8th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

Dane County horse facility hit with deadly virus

A Dane County boarding and training facility for horses has been quarantined after an outbreak of the highly contagious equine herpes virus.

Article by: Associated Press

Updated: September 7, 2014 – 3:25 PM

MADISON, Wis. — A Dane County boarding and training facility for horses has been quarantined after an outbreak of the highly contagious equine herpes virus.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports ( ) one horse had to be euthanized just before Labor Day and two more at the same site have tested positive and are ill.

The state veterinarian, Paul McGraw, says equine herpesvirus-1, or EHV-1, causes respiratory disease, abortion and intermittent outbreaks of neurologic disease in horses.

Humans cannot acquire it but they can act as carriers. An outbreak earlier this year killed several horses in Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin.

All three in Dane County were vaccinated in spring for rhinopneumonitis, which is the non-neurological form of the virus. But there are no vaccines for the neurologic form.

Hernandez Heads For Greener Pastures

September 3rd, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

The perennial leading rider at Fairmount Park has ridden his last race downstate. he has accepted with Wesley Ward. He will have first call for the Ward stable. He is already named on several at Kentucky Downs. We will miss Rafael with his pleasant personality and his great ability as a rider. Of course he won on his last mount at Fairmount. Good luck Rafael.