COLLINSVILLE — Horse-racing fans who file into Fairmount Park Saturday will learn more about a grassroots effort to ensure that the 89-year-old horse track remains open for seasons to come.
Members of the Illinois Horseman's Benevolent and Protective Association in Collinsville will hand out fliers with information about a state bill calling to expand gaming at Illinois horse tracks, except for Fairmount Park. The bill, SB 1739, includes amendments that would exclude Fairmount Park from gaming expansion because the city of East St. Louis and the Casino Queen believe bringing slot machines to Fairmount Park potentially threatens the East St. Louis casino's business.
The Collinsville Chamber of Commerce has joined the local horsemen's group and others in the community to form Fairness for Fairmount. The effort calls on the public to contact lawmakers and urge them to support the track and oppose any on-track gaming expansion in Illinois that does not include Fairmount Park.
The Fairness for Fairmount initiative has a Facebook page that invites anyone to make their voice heard about the issue. The public also is invited to attend a meeting that will be held from 8-9 a.m. Saturday at Fairmount Park to learn more.
Chamber Executive Director Wendi Valenti said many people are directly and indirectly affected by the Collinsville track.
"It has such a huge economic impact on the community and people need to take that into consideration," Valenti said. "The track is managed locally and they use a lot of local contractors for repairs for different projects."
Illinois Horseman's Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Lanny Brooks said he and other lobbyists plan to travel to Springfield to further debate the bill. He said he is confident that the issue will be resolved because two similar previous attempts calling to bring slots to Illinois horse tracks have been supported by both the House and Senate.
"As far as the bill goes, we feel confident we will work that out," Brooks said. "We have passed a bill twice in both chambers and sent it to the governor. We are confident that we can do that again."
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.