Due to a broken pipe on the Clubhouse turn, the track will be closed for training tomorrow (Monday). We will make up the missed day later in the week.
Gambling backers renew casino push despite declines
Backers of more gambling in Illinois are getting ready to introduce legislation that would create five new casinos and allow slot machines at horse racing tracks like Arlington International, similar to previous bills.
Lawmakers want to build off previous efforts, this time under new Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, and a plan could emerge in the next few weeks, state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat, said.
Recently, proposals have sought to add 1,200 slot machines to Arlington and construct new casinos in Lake County, Chicago, Rockford, Danville and the south suburbs. State Rep. Bob Rita, a Blue Island Democrat who has championed the legislation recently, agrees a new plan is coming soon.
“I think he understands that there’s the need for finances in the state, so this is an opportunity to get things moving in the right direction,” Link said of Rauner.
But Illinois has faced financial hardship for a while now, and gambling has not emerged as a savior. Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed two proposals during his tenure, and lawmakers were either unwilling or unable to send him gambling legislation he liked.
“Gambling expansion would just sift people from one place to another and would not increase revenue,” said Illinois Casino Gaming Association Executive Director Tom Swoik.
Illinois casinos brought in $86.7 million less in 2014 than they did in 2013, and overall casino admissions were down 1.4 million over the same time, statistics from the Illinois Gaming Board show.
Rivers Casino in Des Plaines was the only Illinois casino to see an increase in revenue in 2014. Rivers brought in over $425 million in 2014, $6.5 million more than 2013. While the casino’s revenue was up, admissions were down 5.3 percent.
Elgin’s Grand Victoria saw the largest revenue loss among suburban casinos. The riverboat casino took in $171.8 million in 2014, an 11.6 percent drop from 2013. Admissions at Grand Victoria also dropped 14.8 percent from 2013 to 2014. Aurora’s Hollywood Casino saw a 12.7 percent decline in admissions, and Joliet’s Hollywood Casino an 11.3 percent drop.
Meanwhile, horse racing fans have hoped for slot machines for years as their industry faces decline.
While Arlington International Racecourse Chairman Dick Duchossois is listed as a top donor to Rauner’s inauguration and transition team committees, Arlington spokesman Thom Serafin says they, like many others, are unsure of what Rauner will do with gambling.
“We are anxiously observing from the sidelines,” Serafin said.
Link has talked to Rauner about gambling expansion, and the governor has remained open to the idea. This year could be different, Link says, as gambling expansion faced stiff competition with statewide elections and other pressing issues last year.
“We got tied up with elections. We got tied up with the former governor’s feelings on it, so we’re starting fresh with a new governor,” Link said.
Stephanie Slinger, a popular rider at Hawthorne Race Course was taken to Loyola Medical Center complaining of rib and back pain following an incident in Thursday’s fifth race. Stephanie’s mount, Try a Lemon Drop, stumbled leaving the gate and Stephanie was thrown to the ground where she was stepped on by Try a Lemon Drop. Try a Lemon Drop appeared to have no ill effects. Updates on Slinger will be forthcoming as they are released. UPDATE: It appears that Stephanie Slinger is only bruised. No broken bones were detected. – See more at: http://www.barntowire.com/2015/HAWnotes150101.html#sthash.p8VnyONH.dpuf
When we return to on track training Monday January 5th, the days will be Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Four days a week until February 9th which is six weeks from the beginning of the meet. Starting February 9th we will train six days a week.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from your H.B.P.A.
Lawsuit leaves horse tracks facing bankruptcy, attorney says
Facing a $78 million lawsuit judgment for involvement in an extortion scandal involving former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Illinois’ only two pari-mutuel standardbred tracks are prepared to file for bankruptcy to continue operations in 2015, their attorney told the Illinois Racing Board on Tuesday
The judgment, handed down last week by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, ordered Balmoral Racing Club and Maywood Park Trotting Association to pay a total of $77.8 million to four of the state’s riverboat casinos—Empress Casino in Joliet, Harrah’s Casino in Joliet, Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin and Hollywood Casino in Aurora.
In addition, in reversing a district court decision in August, the court ordered Balmoral president/Maywood vice-president John Johnston to pay the casinos $1 million each in punitive damages.
The ruling stems from a federal racketeering suit that claims that Johnston acquiesced to Blagojevich’s request for a $100,000 campaign contribution in return for signing 2008 legislation to benefit Balmoral, Maywood and the state’s three thoroughbred tracks, Arlington International Racecourse, Hawthorne Race Course and Balmoral Park.
However, the contribution was never made.
The bill that Blagojevich signed extended a 3 percent adjusted gross revenue impact fee that was assessed against the four casinos, which were the most profitable in the state at the time, to compensate the state’s racetracks for the financial losses they incurred when the casinos were permitted dockside gaming in 1999. The impact fee was levied in 2006 but expired in 2008.
Attorney William McKenna, who is representing the Johnston family — the principal owner of Balmoral and Maywood — told the Racing Board that his clients intend to appeal the case but in the meantime they have an automatic 14-day stay of judgment during which time they will attempt to settle with the four casinos.
If they fail to come to terms on a settlement, Balmoral Racing Club and Maywood Park Trotting Association will file for bankruptcy, most likely on Christmas eve, to protect against property seizure and disruption in daily operations, McKenna said.
“The focus through the next series of months and probably throughout the year will be to see if a settlement can be reached with the plaintiffs and, if not, what will be the plan of reorganizations,” McKenna testified.
Neil Milbert is a freelance writer
A couple of reminders: The annual backside Christmas party starts at 3pm on Thursday in the First Turn Café. We have 180 people signed up to see Santa and get their special gift for the kids as well as a wonderful dinner for everyone. See you there. Merry Christmas!
Also remember Saturday will be the last day of training. The track will be closed for two weeks and will re-open Monday January 5th
We have reached an agreement with management that will allow us to have the use of the racetrack this winter. We will stop on track training on December 21st and be down for two weeks. We will then resume training on Monday January 5th. There are several details that you should be aware of. Please stop by the office for a complete schedule of days and dates going forward. I think you’ll find this to be a huge benefit to our owners and trainers as well as backside workers.
Judge awards damages to Illinois riverboat casino
Posted Dec. 8, 2014 @ 8:41 pm
CHICAGO — A jury has found a racetrack owner liable in a civil racketeering case that involved actions during Rod Blagojevich’s time as Illinois governor.
The jury in federal district court in Chicago on Monday awarded $26.3 million in damages to four Illinois riverboat casinos. The damages are tripled because the case fell under the civil racketeering statute, making the recovery more than $78 million.
The trial involved a pay-to-play deal allegedly involving the now-imprisoned Blagojevich and John Johnston, a member of the Illinois racetrack industry.
Illinois casinos sued to recover millions of dollars from several tracks. The casinos paid millions in an effective tax imposed by the Blagojevich-era legislature. The money was 3 percent of the casinos’ adjusted gross revenue and it went to the financially struggling but politically well-connected tracks.
The House will adjourn at the end of business today and won’t come back until the new legislators take their seats. This means that any hope of legislation being passed during a lame duck session is off the table. So, our quest for any gaming bill that would help the industry will begin after January 14 with a new Governor in office. Rest assured that all representatives of the industry are more that ready to accept the challenge of getting a bill passed in the up coming session that will save and assure the future of horse racing in Illinois.
Attention horsemen on the backside. Free clothing will be given out first thing Monday morning in the Horsemen’s lounge. Please pass this info. to the break stretch workers.
The sign up sheet for Christmas gifts for the kids is in the H.B.P.A. office. Christmas dinner with Santa will be Thursday December 18th in the First Turn Café.