Fairmount Park to host fewer races next season

News-DemocratSeptember 24, 2013 

A horse and rider take off from the starting gate during a training session at Fairmount Park.

DERIK HOLTMANN/BND

The most races that Fairmount Park can host next season will be 52, but there may be as few as 10 races if state lawmakers do not extend Internet-based wagering in Illinois.

The Illinois Racing Board on Tuesday announced four alternative schedules for all five Illinois horse tracks' 2014 season, depending on whether the General Assembly approves an extension of advance deposit wagering. Advance deposit wagering was legalized across the state in October 2009 and provides revenue to the board and the state's horse racing venues. It has boosted purses at the Collinsville track by about $960,000 a year.

The racing board receives 1.5 percent of the wagered money, which last year totaled more than $122 million. The racing board's cut was more than $1.8 million.

This year, the legislature did not extend the measure until June. According to Lanny Brooks, the executive director of the Illinois Horseman's Benevolent and Protective Association, that delay cost the Collinsville track about $500,000.

The current extension is set to expire Jan. 31. Racing board operating manager Mickey Ezzo said if lawmakers do not resume this supplemental funding, the racing board will be forced to drastically reduce live racing events next season.

"It's become a major revenue source for the racing board and the industry, so that factored into the dates," Ezzo said.

Fairmount Park President Brian Zander could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

According to the four scenarios announced Tuesday by the racing board in Chicago, Fairmount Park would host as many as 52 races next year beginning April 29 and ending Sept. 1, if the racing board receives $725,000 in supplemental funding and advance deposit wagering is reauthorized.

If the board does not receive the supplemental funding, but advance deposit wagering is reauthorized, the Collinsville track would still host 52 dates.

If advance deposit wagering is not reauthorized, but the board receives $725,000 in supplemental funding, the track would only host 19 dates.

And if the track does not pay the reauthorized funding and advance deposit wagering is not reauthorized, then only 10 races would be scheduled next season at Fairmount Park.

In the Fairmount season that ended Friday, the track had 69 live racing dates.

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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