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Fairmount Park season to be cut short

Fairmount Park horse track has decided to end its 2018 season on Labor Day, cutting five racing dates from what was originally scheduled.

The track had scheduled to have races twice a week through Sept. 22. Because no legislation was passed by the Illinois General Assembly that would allow for a new revenue source, such as slot machines, Fairmount is cutting its season short.

“If all goes well, meaning if the business goes well, we don’t have a lot of rainouts, and advanced-deposit wagering has been pretty good, the most we could go to would probably be Labor Day," said Brian Zander, president of the track. "We would have to cut out the last month of the meet.”

The track at one point thought it would have to end its season on July 3 without a new revenue source.

Zander said the state having a 2017-18 budget in place, which included several hundred thousands of dollars from the Department of Agriculture allocated to the park for purses, as well as the good weather, is allowing the season to continue through Labor Day.

When the money from the Department of Agriculture arrives, however, it is still based on when the comptroller releases the cash amid the state's backlog of bills.

Advance-deposit wagering business for the park also is up 30 percent from last year, Zander said.

“That has been much better than anticipated,” Zander said. “That has helped us.”

Zander said tracks in the state have vacated dates in the past, so the practice is not new, but "to lose a whole month is unfortunate."

As for next year's season, a determination of how long Fairmount will run has yet to be determined, and plans won't be settled until late September.

“We will have some sort of a meet for 2019 and 2020, but as we sit here right now, I could not tell you what it is," Zander said.

There had been gaming bills that would have allowed for another revenue source for Fairmount. However, those pieces of legislation did not move out of committee.