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“Reminder Reminder”

Don’t forget
We draw tomorrow (Friday) for
Wednesday night at Balmoral

Get your entries in

Let’s fill the box

 

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wednesday night (April 2nd) racing at Balmoral has been cancelled for this week because of a lack of horses. It was reported that there were only 52 entries. Hopefully, this will be just a one time occurrence and we can get back to racing on the following Wednesday and on a regular basis for the rest of the year.

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As a reminder, beginning this week, a nurse practioner will be at Balmoral Park on Wednesday mornings from 9am to noon. Many times she will be accompanied by a doctor as well. Please sign up if you need services.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Contract Update

On Thursday, May/Blmp and the IHHA, adhering to an edict put forth by the IRB, signed a contract that begins today and expires June 30, 2015.  As a courtesy to horse people and like all of the past five year's contracts, we will post the contract on this website (in the next few days).  It's actually only about 26 pages; when I wrote last night that it was 50 pages, it must have just seemed that way to me.      :-)

Good racing to all! 

Dave McCaffrey

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Contract Update.

Since last Thursday, representatives of the IHHA and representatives of May/Blmp have been busy finalizing the details of the contract.  Last Thursday, we agreed on the outline of a contract and I'm pleased to report that both sides have honored that outline.  The process of "dotting the i's and crossing the t's" is tedious but is very close to being completed.  The IRB is requiring a signed contract by Friday.   When we sign the final contract, we'll report that on this website and put the actual contract up here (all 50 pages or so of it). 

Dave McCaffrey

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Monday, March 10, 2014

As a reminder the Topline stake payment is due March 15th.  Click here for an entry form.

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Wright, family enthusiastic about racing

By BRYAN VEGINSKI

Times Newspapers

MORTON — Harness racing is a passion for a local family.

While Bill Wright has seen his share of highlights and disappointments in the sport with which he has a longtime involvement, last year was particularly memorable. King Mufasa, the trotter he and wife Maddy Wright co-own with Mystical Marker Farms of Dyer, Ind., won a prestigious honor last month in Springfield. King Mufasa was selected as the 2013 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year after recording 14 wins in 18 starts, including 12 in a row. “There’s nothing more fun than to get in the winner’s circle,” Bill Wright said. The vote for top horse is conducted annually by fellow horsemen and horsewomen.

“He was pretty dominant,” said Wright of King Mufasa. “He was exposed all over the state.”

Some of the notable victories for King Mufasa, who was trained by Mike Brink, were: the Cardinal, Hanover and Su Mac Lad in Chicago, the Illinois State Fair in Springfield and DuQuoin and the Circle City in Anderson, Ind. King Mufasa, who had limited success prior to the ’13 campaign, perks up around people. “He’s a very good-natured, lovable animal,” said Wright. “He’s as nice in the barn as he is on the track.” Wright and his partners typically sell horses after they are 3 years old, but plan to make an exception with King Mufasa. If he is healthy, King Mufasa will race in 2014 as a 4-year-old, mostly in Indiana.

King Mufasa, along with Dreamaster and Classic Photo, who took part in the acclaimed Hambletonian, rank as some of the best horses Wright has raced in the sport. Wright, along with his co-owners, buy two-three horses per year on average in what is an extensive process of going through detailed information in catalogs and attending sales where they can see the animals in person. It takes a team effort. “It’s a challenge buying the right yearling in the first place,” said Wright. The focus for the group is on trotters rather than pacers. Relatives and friends regularly are at the race site. “It’s really a family thing,” Wright said. “It’s unique really in that the whole family can get involved. We really get into it.”

Wright, a Morton resident for more than 40 years, followed his parents and grandfather. “I was born and raised in the business and I just stayed with the program,” he said. Wright would clean stalls and feed the horses, then eat his breakfast before heading off to school. He raced horses in the summer while attending Millikin University in Decatur. After a 33-year working career at Caterpillar Inc., during which time his participation was limited, Wright jumped back in harness racing. He started buying horses in 1988. Most have been equal partnerships. “I feel very honored to be in the sport,” said Wright. “It’s a beautiful and gracious sport.” Maddy Wright mentioned how the family has been blessed to travel a lot to places such as Canada and the East Coast.

Bill Wright was named Illinoisan of the Day in 2010 by state Gov. Pat Quinn, one of the daily recipients during the State Fair’s annual run. He has served in various roles with organizations to help harness racing grow and does not forget all the folks who contribute. “I’m a big believer in promoting the sport and thanking people for getting us where we are,” said Wright.  Wright plans to be in harness racing for the foreseeable future. “As long as my family loves it, I’ll stick wit it,” he said.

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Friday, March 7, 2014

One more pertinent piece of our contract agreement that we wanted horsemen to be aware of is that due to an anticipated lack of horses that are ready to race in the next few weeks, we will not be racing on Wednesday, March 19 and Wednesday, March 26. In April as the weather warms up and more horses qualify we will return to the traditional five day schedule of Wednesday thru Sunday.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Contract Update.

After a flurry of activity and a hearty debate among the IHHA Board of Directors, WE HAVE AN AGREEMENT ON A CONTRACT! 

The length of the contract begins Friday, March 14 and continues through June 30, 2015. 

In this 16 month contract, the purse cut will be 10% now and stay at that level through January 4 of 2015.  Then, there will be a 24 day dark period (from Jan. 4 through Jan. 28).  On January 29, 2015 the purses will be cut an additional 15%.  The purse overpayment will increase to the amount equivalent to 35% of recapture (or $2.5 million).  Those purse structures almost certainly will get us to June 30, 2015.  Additionally, Wednesday racing will be eliminated in 2015. 

Nobody knows more than I how painful purse cuts are but this deal at least gives us 10 months of a relatively small cut and another six months that are at least spelled out for everyone to see in advance.  The fact of the matter is, in our opinion, this is the best we can do with the dreadful hand we are dealt.  Recapture eats up almost 40% of what we generate and that percentage only grows when our handle declines. 

This process has been very frustrating and extremely agonizing.  It took crazy twists and turns and at times looked as though no contract would ever be signed.  In the end, we have 16 months of racing ahead of us and three legislative sessions to possibly be "saved." Everyone knows the story and everyone should understand that the clock on the life of Illinois harness racing is ticking. 

In addition, I want to earnestly thank the racetracks, not for their unremitting stubbornness, but for the way they conducted themselves publicly with respect to literature and pronouncements they put forth.  Both sides tried very hard to keep the "warfare decibel level" to a minimum and that kept the process shorter than it otherwise would have taken.  Also, let's not forget that the tracks, to their credit, are extending us an interest free line of credit of $2.5 million. 

Finally, a huge thank you to all of the people who texted, called, emailed, etc. and all of the staff and directors of the IHHA.  We used all of those communications as a measuring stick of support and we've been overwhelmed by that unwavering backing.

Have a great 16 months of racing!

Dave McCaffrey

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

 

Contract Update. 

This evening, the IHHA Board of Directors conducted a conference call to consider the proposal that was posted on the Balmoral Website.   The Board voted UNANIMOUSLY TO REJECT the offer that is posted. 

That offer cuts purses 15% from the 2013 levels and is silent on the number of races that will be conducted on a weekly basis but requires a minimum of seven horse fields. Since their offer also states that racing will begin on a Friday, are we to expect that there will be no racing on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the mediation process? Also, why should there be any purse cut when we have $5.5 million in our purse account?  In addition, the so-called "protections" of retroactive payments are not protections at all as a mediation agreement has to be agreed to by both parties.  Does anyone expect the tracks to sign off on an agreement that raises purse levels?   Remember, at the insistence of the IRB, we are entering into MEDIATION, not BINDING ARBITRATION (a mandated settlement).  

And we haven't even touched on Betzotic, a platform from which we receive less from our own races than TVG and Twinspires - remarkable considering Betzotic is "our" platform.  In short, contracts are complex and can't be summed up, or for goodness sakes, accepted in a few bullet points.  Why do you think negotiations break down when we get to details? To blindly agree to a proposal like the one MAY/BLMP unfortunately posted on their website is at best a return to many bad deals in the past and at worst a recipe for disaster. 

Now, for tonight I have said enough.  We are faced with extremely complex issues and the last place we should be negotiating is on this website.  The bottom line is that we want to negotiate a contract.  We have continually followed IRB Chairman Berry's rules of good faith negotiating and professionalism.  We encourage the tracks to resume negotiations in the same manner. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Contract Update. 

On Tuesday, a proposal was sent to the IHHA for a possible temporary contract to race during the mediation period.  We were immediately interested.  Unfortunately, their proposal called for a 26% reduction in racing opportunities AND a 15% purse cut from 2013 levels, so no deal was made.  With $5.5 million in our purse account we are opposed to a significant purse cut if it is accompanied by a huge reduction in racing opportunities.   We are not naive enough to think that the current horse population can support the same number of races as last year, which is why no purse cut should occur - fewer races mean less total purse money being spent. 

Finally, the decision by Maywood to lockout horsemen by denying entries Monday was mind boggling.  I am predicting that MAY/BLMP will make a 180 degree change of that policy on Wednesday.  We encourage entries and I'd be willing to bet they'll be accepted. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Today, the IHHA tried to get a temporary contract to begin racing immediately. Unfortunately, again we could not agree to terms. We will continue as often as possible to work towards a sensible solution.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Contract Update. 

Discussions between all parties (IHHA, May/Blmp, and IRB) took place today with no agreement.  The length of the contract continues to be a major sticking point. 

On a separate note, I want to comment on mediation; I hope to clear up some possible misconceptions.  First and foremost, mediation has been mandated by the IRB.  This was a result of negotiations that endlessly unfold like the movie "Groundhog Day."  Almost daily, potential deals progress and then inevitably blow up.  After witnessing these events for the umpteenth time over the weekend, the IRB mandated mediation. 

The IHHA happily welcomes the IRB mandate of mediation.  Perhaps, with professional help, a deal can actually make it to the finish line and a deal can be made. 

The IHHA proposal to race through the mediation process has been met with a thud.  With $5.5 million in our purse account, there is absolutely no reason in the world that we shouldn't be racing for 2013 purses, IF NOT MORE, during the process.

In the meantime, we'll keep trying to make a deal that ensures horse people of racing for their money, preferably in 2014. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Contract Update.

No answer was given by the racetracks in response to our proposal to start racing at the 2013 purse levels while mediation takes place.  We hope they accept the offer so we can start racing for our $5.5 million. 

We continue to try very hard to come to terms for the contract.  The racetracks' insistence on a contract that goes past 12/31/14 is hindering the process because of so many unknowns. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Contract Update

We have failed to reach an agreement with the racetracks so the IHHA has agreed with the IRB's suggestion to enter into professional mediation with the racetracks.  That process is time consuming so today we are proposing a temporary contract while the process of mediation begins.  The terms of the temporary contract are simple: the 2013 contract gets extended until mediation ends.  We have $5.5 million in our account so the five to eight weeks that the mediation process would take only dents the account.   Then, we adjust purses and contracts accordingly. 

If the tracks are truly interested in conducting live racing, they will accept this offer as it poses absolutely no risk and begins the season. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Friday, February 28 2014

Contract update. 

A negotiating meeting was held Friday between the IHHA and Maywood/Balmoral.  No agreement was reached.   We are trying to look at different ways to solve the disagreement regarding the $5.5 million in our purse account.  I'm hopeful that talks will continue and an agreement can be reached soon. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Contract update.

Negotiations continued today with representatives of the IRB acting as mediators.  Different models and concepts were being floated.  At some point, I thought progress was possibly being made but the day ended with no deal.   Tomorrow is another day and we'll keep trying. 

On a different subject, more gaming bills are being discussed in Springfield.  One such bill is I-gaming.  The specifics of it have not been determined yet.  The newspaper article regarding I-gaming from the Springfield Journal is below.

Dave McCaffrey

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Cullerton wants to look at Internet gambling

By Doug Finke
State Capitol Bureau
Posted Feb. 26, 2014 @ 6:05 pm
Updated Feb 26, 2014 at 6:29 PM

Senate President John Cullerton said Wednesday that legalizing Internet gambling in Illinois could provide the state with needed revenue, although passing the bill will be difficult.

The Chicago Democrat, who has pushed for online gambling for two years, said it could become part of gambling expansion talks that are already underway at the Capitol.

“I’ve been supportive of this ever since we found out from the Justice Department we could do this,” Cullerton said following a short Senate committee hearing on the issue. “The point is people are already gambling, and we’re not making any of the money. There are other states that are just getting started that are bringing in some money. So that may play a role in it when we try to pass a budget.”

Cullerton acknowledged, though, that maneuvering Internet gambling through the thicket of competing gambling interests will be difficult.

“I support it, but there’s a lot of complications as to how it affects the existing gaming industry,” Cullerton said. “That seems to be where the hang-up might be right now. Whenever you have a gaming bill, the other people who are in the gambling industry, whether it be horse racing or existing casinos, they want to be at the table.”

The Senate Executive Committee Wednesday heard from the Poker Players Alliance, an organization that urged Illinois to adopt Internet gambling.

“PPA stands in strong support of (Cullerton’s) effort,” said PPA executive director John Pappas. “Any effort to regulate Internet poker should not be viewed as an expansion of gambling in Illinois.”

Pappas said Illinois gamblers already have access to online poker, casino games and sports betting.

“Regulation simply would mean corralling the current unregulated marketplace,” he said.

So far, Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have authorized Internet poker. Some analysts believe Illinois could gain $500 million annually in gross gaming revenue, Pappas said.

Anita Bedell of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems warned that Internet gambling will only lead to more problem gamblers.

“Making gambling more accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will make it easier for people to gamble and lose their money,” Bedell said. “There are more than enough opportunities to gamble in Illinois.”

She said studies show Internet gamblers are more likely to be problem gamblers.

Illinois lawmakers could again take up a gambling expansion bill this spring. Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, is holding hearings in locations around the state to get input. He is looking at a plan to add five new casinos and allow slot machines at horse racing tracks.

Existing casinos have said they’re concerned further expansion will hurt business because the new locations will simply take gamblers from existing casinos rather than entice new customers to gamble.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Important message from IHHA and Maywood Balmoral:

The IHHA along with Maywood/Balmoral would like to remind everyone that certain stake payments are due March 1.   Also, we want to be crystal clear regarding these payments - if you have horses that you feel are stake-worthy, you should stake them to the races for which they are eligible.   

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

 

Contract Update. 

More discussions took place today between the IHHA, the IRB, and the racetracks.  Mediation efforts continue by the Racing Board. 

Yesterday's update touched off lots of responses today.  Most people seemed to understand how precarious of a position we're in.  Racetracks still want to spread our $5.5 million of purse account money over the next two years.  The IHHA feels very strongly, for many reasons, that since the money in the purse account is our money, we should have the opportunity to race for that money in 2014.   To "stretch" that money over two years merely delays the inevitable while taking away any quality that is held by the 2013 purse structure. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Contract update.

Every day the IHHA office and I receive scores of emails, texts, and phone calls.  The vast majority of them are supportive, some offer suggestions, and some just leave me shaking my head.  One such email came in this afternoon and I want to share it with all of you. 

Because I want to protect the identity of the sender, I won't give the name.  The email read (in part):

"Why don't we just sign a two year contract that keeps the purses like they were the last few years?"

Yikes.

I want to use tonight's update to give some unfortunate facts about the long-term situation of Illinois harness racing.  Maybe it's a failure on my part to educate the membership, maybe it's a failure on the membership's part to accept what I'm about to say, or maybe it's somewhere in between.   Regardless, here's an attempt to convey the sad facts. 

Illinois harness racing is in huge trouble!  So much, in fact, that our situation is comparable to being given the diagnosis of a terminal illness.  Consider Johnny Johnston's testimony at last week's IRB meeting when he said of Illinois harness racing, "We're dealing with end of life issues here."

The only antidote to our illness is some kind of legislative help from Springfield (slots, impact fee, etc.)  And the only good news is that we have $5.5 million in our purse account.  If we don't get the cure, we're left to decide two things: how long do we want to live? (somewhere between 7 and 22 months) and what do we want our quality of life to be between now and the end (big purse cuts and a longer life or no purse cuts and a shorter life). 

Obviously, these are big issues which is why we haven't yet signed a contract.  The racetracks want us to "live" longer and continue to provide them product to sell through cutting purses aggressively and continually by insisting on a two year contract; the IHHA believes we should go out with dignity, by keeping purses at a respectable level for as long as possible albeit shorter than two years. 

So, there you have it; if you didn't know how bad our situation is before, I hope you all get it now.  And, finally, I hope that answers my friend's email question. 

Tomorrow or Thursday I expect contract negotiations to resume after a one day respite (because of a funeral.)  Please keep checking back for updates. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Contract Update

 

Monday, February 24, 2014

After three hours of negotiating, the meeting ended with no agreement. 

The issues on the table are very complex and because of that are not easily solved.

At this point, it's practically inconceivable to see how racing will occur this week.  We continue to encourage further negotiations; hopefully a contract will be signed at some point.

I hate to sound redundant, but I want to re-iterate that the racetracks and the IHHA need each other; without a contract, there will be no racing.  Without a dance partner, there is no dance.

We will continue very hard to get to an agreed deal.  

Dave McCaffrey

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Contract Update

Tomorrow the first negotiating session in two weeks will take place.  Nobody wants to sign a contract more than us, but please remember this: When the goal is securing an agreement at any cost, the outcome will inevitably be a bad agreement.  We'll stick to our goals and see what happens and keep all of you posted throughout the week. 

Again, I want to encourage trainers with horses qualified to enter for draws at Maywood and Balmoral.  If a contract gets signed, you'll want your horses in the box. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Contract Update

A negotiating meeting has been scheduled for Monday morning downtown.   This will be the first such formal meeting in over two weeks.   Is that a good sign?  Absolutely.   Is it a sure thing that a deal will be made? Absolutely not. 

When this contract "situation" started, the IHHA has tried to be consistent in two main requests.   First, if a purse cut is deemed necessary, we want it to be as small as possible.  Second, some recapture deferral is important to extend the length of our $5 million purse account.  Those are the two basic tenets of our negotiating position.  We continue to stick by them while trying to get a deal.

Finally, at this time, I'd like to send a big thank you to so many owners, drivers, trainers, grooms, vets, blacksmiths, breeders, handicappers/fans, (I hope I didn't forget anyone) who have been so supportive; it's a great honor to represent all of you.  Also, a huge thank you to the IHHA Board of Directors and staff; your unflinching support these last few weeks has been inspiring and amazing. 

And one more thing: I'm particularly proud of how we as a Board and an Association have conducted ourselves - no personal attacks, no hostility - and I believe that the conclusion of this process will be sooner as a result of that.  

Dave McCaffrey

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Contract Update

More discussions took place today between the IHHA, several IRB Commissioners, and racetracks.  We were told to "keep the weekend open" in case a meeting needed to be scheduled. 

Also today, the IRB re-iterated its position that unless a contract is in place, there will be no racing.  This should serve as notice and a reminder to both sides that we need each other's agreement.

Dave McCaffrey

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Contract Update

Racetracks and the IHHA exchanged different proposals today.  Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, all racetrack proposals are for a two year contract.   Unless massive amounts of recapture are deferred, there is simply no way to sign onto a two year deal, especially considering the fact there aren't even racing dates for next year. 

We submitted a proposal today that accepted the racetracks proposed deferred recapture amount.  It is a deal that would ensure racing at about a 10% purse decrease for most of the year.   We encourage the racetracks to accept and sign this one year contract proposal. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Contract Update.

A couple hours were spent yesterday discussing options for a contract agreement between racetracks, the IRB, and the IHHA.  The racetracks are currently trying to secure a two year contract, despite the fact that racing dates have only been handed out for 2014.  The other problem with a two year contract is that the racetracks want to spread our $5 million over two years - 2014 & 2015.   Our purse account simply doesn't generate enough to spread the $5 million balance over two years.  It would be like trying to feed a racehorse for a month with one bag of grain. 

And that is why we continue to encourage the racetracks to sign a one year extension of the 2013 contract - a contract that allows the racetracks to collect all of recapture but also allows horse people to race for their own money.  

Dave McCaffrey

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

IRB Meeting Update

The request by Balmoral to eliminate Wednesday's was defeated by a vote of 9-0.   We sincerely hope that a contract can be negotiated and signed in the next several days.   Updates will continue to be posted as they continue to be necessary. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Monday, February 17, 2014

 

Tomorrow, one of the agenda items to be decided on at the Illinois Racing Board's monthly meeting will be Balmoral Park's request to vacate Wednesday night racing for the rest of 2014. The IHHA is on record opposing this. We hope that once this issue has been decided by the IRB one way or another we can get back to the negotiating table. Today, the IHHA sent out the press release below which explains one of the fundamental problems that we face

Maywood/Balmoral holding over $5 million in purse account
Horsemen eager to get back to work, racing

For the second week in a row, live harness racing in Illinois has been cancelled because of a contract dispute between the owners of Maywood and Balmoral Park Racetracks and the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association (IHHA). The central conflict surrounds the question of what rights do the horsemen have in directing their own bank account known in racing as the purse account.

“At the core of this dispute is who decides how to spend money that is clearly earmarked for purses, which essentially are paychecks for the people who make horseracing possible.” said IHHA President Dave McCaffrey. “Those people are grooms, trainers, drivers, veterinarians, blacksmiths, farmers and breeders.  Our purse account currently has over $5 million and we want to start racing for that money.”

The current impasse exists because the racetracks have proposed an immediate, substantial cut to purses so that purse money can be dribbled out over the next couple of years. The IHHA has countered saying that horsemen would rather race for similar money as in 2013 at least until the end of the next legislative session.

“It’s very difficult for horsemen to make a living at the current purse levels,” said IHHA board member Mike Knicley. “A decrease in purses now will only make it more difficult to stay employed in this industry.”

The IHHA believes that the very people who provide the horses to race, have a better understanding of the impact that purse levels have on the day to day operations. They say that the racetracks miss the point on the effect that an immediate purse cut will have on the quality of life for horsemen.

“It’s like cutting someone’s hourly rate from $12 to $9,” said McCaffrey. “People have to be able to make a living right now. Our money is being held hostage and those purses are paychecks for our families.  The bottom line is that the $5 million is our money; we’re not asking for increases, just to use our money to add some stability.”

McCaffrey emphasized that other factors may play a role later in 2014. “Things can change very quickly in Springfield,” he said. “We don’t know what the legislature will do in the next year, but we do know that hardworking people in racing need to have control of their own money. The question is, do we allow the racetracks to chop purses now so they can race for a couple of more years by having their “labor force,” the ones who put on the show, working for miserable wages, or do we race for 2013 purses now and try and maintain a decent existence?”

While the future for Illinois horse racing is uncertain, a gambling bill is gaining steam again in the Illinois Legislature. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has said in the past that once a pension bill is passed, he will be able to turn his attention to gambling expansion. Pension reform legislation was signed by the Governor in December 2013. Illinois horseman can only hope that the much needed relief that a signed gaming bill will bring does not come too late.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Contract Update.

There were no changes or breakthroughs today regarding the 2014 contract.  Tomorrow, the IHHA will conduct its regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Board of Directors.  Then, on Tuesday the IRB will hold its monthly meeting at which they will hand down a ruling concerning Balmoral's request to eliminate Wednesday racing.  The IHHA opposes Balmoral's request.  So, it will be an important week for Illinois harness racing.  The IHHA continues to stress  that there is no boycott whatsoever of the entry box.  However, let's face it, if there is no contract, there will be no racing.

Dave McCaffrey

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Contract Update.

No progress was made today toward getting a 2014 contract. It seems the racetracks are waiting until their request to eliminate Wednesday racing has been decided by the Racing Board.  Our sincere hope is that after Tuesday's IRB meeting both sides can come to an agreement.  In order for racing to resume, a contract has to be in place.  Nothing is ever easy in the horse business not even contracts; but one thing we all know is that perseverance pays. 

Dave McCaffrey 

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Contract Update.

Another day without a meeting means another day without a contract.  And until Tuesday's decision by the IRB is handed down regarding the racetrack's request to eliminate Wednesday racing, the contract process has unfortunately stalled. 

There is over $5 million in the purse account; the IHHA has repeatedly said that resuming racing under the same terms as the 2013 contract is an option.  No recapture is deferred under the terms of that contract.  The racetracks have refused to sign that deal and since there is no contract there is no racing. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Contract Update.

The pending decision by the Illinois Racing Board regarding the racetracks request to eliminate racing on Wednesdays is clearly standing in the way of any kind of a contract agreement.  The IHHA is on record as strongly opposing this request. Remember, the IRB has ruled that there will be no racing until a contract is signed by both sides.  What that means is that the racetracks need us in order to start racing and we need the racetracks in order to start racing.   Waiting until Tuesday to negotiate only ensures no racing will start anytime soon. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Wednesday, February, 12, 2014

Contract Update.

There were no formal contract negotiations today.  Balmoral's request to eliminate racing is apparently standing in the way of serious contract discussions.  Unfortunately, that request isn't decided upon until next Tuesday. 

The horsemen's purse account has over $5 million in it and we are resisting the racetracks proposed 15-30% purse cuts.   We are hopeful that soon the racetracks will drop their request to vacate Wednesdays so we can get back to productive negotiations. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Contract Update. 

Today, the IHHA submitted it's response to the IRB objecting strongly to Balmoral's request to eliminate Wednesday racing.   That request will be heard and voted on during next Tuesday's IRB meeting.  Every attempt is being made by the IHHA to protect Wednesday racing.   Unfortunately, that issue is delaying negotiations.   At the moment, no negotiation meeting is scheduled, but I'm guessing one will be held in the next couple days as we were told to be ready for a meeting at a moments notice.

In the meantime, the IHHA encourages all horsemen to qualify your horses so they can be ready if and when we start back racing.  

Dave McCaffrey

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Click here to see the negative consequence of recapture on Illinois horseman.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Contract Update.

Another miserably cold day and another day without a contract agreement.  The next negotiating meeting is not officially scheduled but the IRB is attempting to line something up the next couple days.  

The IHHA Board, during a conference call, again unanimously supported the right of horse people to have access to their own purse money.  Hopefully, the weather and the negotiations warm up soon. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Contract Update.

The racetracks still have not agreed to an extension of the 2013 contract. We are trying very hard to work out a deal for 2014 and had hoped they'd agree on that type of structure. However, as of Monday morning, we will move forward and try to focus on a different way to get a contract done. 

It has been brought to our attention that horse people are asking about the IHHA's stance of the racetracks vacating Wednesdays.  A conference call of the Board of Directors was held today and the vote was unanimous to oppose that request.  As a reminder, please feel free to call any of the IHHA Directors or the IHHA office if you have any questions.  Every attempt at quick responses will be made. 

I'm confident more phone calls and discussions will take place on Monday and another update will be posted at the end of the day. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Contract update.

It has now been 24 hours since the IHHA agreed to sign a 2014 contract that simply extends the 2013 contract.  Unfortunately, the racetracks have not signed onto that deal.  Multiple discussions with IRB Commissioners took place today and they understand our different offers that are on the table.

Our position is very clear: we have $5.5 million in our purse account and we want to race for our money.

I continue to encourage everyone to enter their horses.  The continued lockout from racing is frustrating and we hope it ends shortly.  

Dave McCaffrey

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Friday, February 7, 2014

After meeting downtown for two hours in front of representatives from the Illinois Racing Board, no agreement was reached.  Today, we presented proposals moving toward compromise only to be met with offers moving backwards.  Today a deal should have been signed but it was evident that the racetracks did not want in any way shape or form to reach an agreement. 

It's  unfathomable to us that we have $5.5 million in our purse account and we're being locked out from racing. 

So, today, in an effort to get back to racing, we told the racetracks that we will sign a continuation of the 2013 contract immediately - a contract that allows the racetracks to collect 100% of recapture. The ball is clearly in their court.

The Illinois Racing Board has ruled that racing will not begin until a contract is signed.  We want to start racing again and signing an extension of last year's contract is our best attempt at demonstrating that desire.

Dave McCaffrey

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Contract update:

While no new offers were presented today, plenty of dialogue with all involved did continue.  As a result, a meeting with the racetracks, the IHHA, and the IRB is scheduled for late afternoon tomorrow.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On Wednesday, several discussions took place between racetracks, IRB Commissioners, and the IHHA.  

No agreement was reached today. 

We've found that the IRB and it's Commissioners acting as mediators is a more effective way to work out a deal - it allows neutral regulators to hear all positions and put forth ideas/proposals while keeping both parties separated so as not to intensify bad feelings which could possibly extend this process.  Several Commissioners are involved in negotiations.  They are dedicated to finding a resolution and we thank all of them for their time and assistance. 

Again, reasonable control over our $5 million-plus purse account and the harmful effects of recapture are the main issues.  

We will post daily updates as these negotiations continue.  Hopefully, an agreement can be made soon. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Tuesday, Feb 4, 2014

Contract update.

The IHHA and the racetracks worked very hard to negotiate a contract today with the IRB acting as mediator.   No agreement was reached.  Tomorrow, we will continue to work with the IRB and the racetracks to get an agreement.  

As a reminder, recapture and a purse cut are the two main sticking points.  Despite the fact that we have over $5 million in our purse account, most of us are resigned to a purse cut as we are bleeding money at an unfortunate rate; the size of the cut is a sticking point as is the length at which the purses can stay at a particular level. 

The Illinois Racing Board has ruled that no racing will occur until a signed contract of all parties is in place. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Contract update.

With assistance from the Illinois Racing Board, negotiations for a 2014 contract with Maywood/Balmoral are back in motion today. We will report on any new developments as they happen. Stay tuned.

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Contract update. 

Negotiations are on-going with the Illinois Racing Board acting as mediator.  

One of the big issues we are dealing with is the fact that the horsemen's purse account currently has a balance of over $5 million.   With such a large balance, many horsemen believe that there shouldn't be any purse cut, let alone the 15-35% cuts that have been proposed or published. 

Tomorrow (Monday), is the double draw at Maywood.  I have no way of knowing if the IHHA and Blmp/May. can agree on a contract in the next few days.  In case we do, I again encourage everyone to enter all horses you wish to enter on Monday.

Again, please enter horses you wish to race! 

As an aside, we are working very hard to come to an amicable solution with the tracks.  I'm hopeful that we can get an agreement soon that lays out a purse structure allowing people dependent on racing some semblance of a livelihood. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Click below to read just a few of the recent stories that have been circulating about our current challenging situation.

http://www.harnessracingupdate.com/

http://www.drf.com/news/harness-racing-illinois-harness-season-hold-pending-negotiations

We will continue to update as new information becomes available.

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 Friday, January 31, 2014

Contract Update - Friday, January 31, 2014

After six hours of negotiations (mediated by the Illinois Racing Board), no agreement was reached between Maywood/Balmoral and the IHHA.   The IHHA is trying to lessen the harmful effects of recapture as they relate to purses.   We, along with the Illinois Racing Board, will keep trying to come to a compromise through the weekend.   Check back for updates.  

Dave McCaffrey

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Attn: Illinois Horseman.

Tomorrow (Friday) is the first draw for the 2014 year.  We do not have a contract yet with Maywood/Balmoral. HOWEVER we encourage everyone who wants to race to enter!  (Seriously!)   We have yet another negotiation scheduled tomorrow and we plan to race Wednesday.   Whether our signal is exported beyond the state of Illinois is in limbo, but we expect our races to be conducted regardless.  So, to sum up, please enter if you have horses eligible to race!   We'll work out the details in the next 48 hours.

Dave McCaffrey

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Legislative Update:

At 4 pm this afternoon, Governor Quinn signed the ADW bill into law.  So, Scenario 1 giving race dates for the entire year is now officially adopted. 

Dave McCaffrey

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Finally something good happened for horse racing in Springfield!   Today, the ADW bill passed both the Illinois House and Senate.   The only thing needed for the bill to go into effect is Governor Quinn's signature and he has said repeatedly that he will sign the bill.  So, what does this mean?  First and foremost, it means that the Illinois Racing Board will award the racing dates in Scenario 1 of the dates order.   In short, we'll race three days a week at Balmoral and two days a week at Maywood for most of 2014 (there is about a 10 day break during the State Fair in August).

Now, we have to negotiate a contract with Maywood and Balmoral.   If the racetracks refuse to defer any recapture, we're facing major purse cuts. 

Today was a good day; now let's hope that we can get a decent contract that protects purses. 

More updates in the next few days.

Dave McCaffrey

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Springfield Update - 1:04PM

ADW passes House 95-10!

Dave McCaffrey

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Springfield Update - 11:20 AM

ADW bill passes Senate 47-4.  Now to House.  

Dave McCaffrey

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Springfield Update - 10:30 AM

There was a hiccup regarding some language in the ADW bill.  That "controversial" language is being struck from the bill.  With that language struck, there is SUPPOSEDLY a commitment to call the bill in the Senate first and then in the House.   So far, so good. 

 Dave McCaffrey

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The IHHA is committed to spreading the word about the importance of the ADW bill. A letter signed by Dave McCaffrey and other Illinois harness horsemen from across the state was published in the following newspapers:

(The editorial can also be found below. It's titled 15,000 Jobs, Jobs, Jobs)

  • Chicago Tribune - January 20, 2014
  • Springfield State Journal-Register - January 26, 2014
  • Pekin Times - January 26, 2014
  • Journal Gazette & Times Courier - January 26, 2014
  • Northwest Herald - January 26, 2014
  • Champaign News Gazette - January 26, 2014
  • Elgin Courier-News - January 23, 2014
  • Aurora Beacon News - January 24, 2014
  • Quad Cities Argus - January 28, 2014
  • Quad Cities Dispatch - January 28, 2014
  • Quad City Times - January 28, 2014
  • Standardbred Canada - January 20, 2014
  • Paulick Report - January 20, 2014

The following news stories also cite the IHHA letter as a source:

The letter also resulted directly in one feature news story that was published in as many as five major Illinois newspapers including the following:

  • State Journal-Register
  • Northwest Indiana Times
  • The Southern Illinoisan
  • The Quad City Times
  • Decatur Herald & Review

Various radio stations throughout Illinois also did interviews with Dave McCaffrey and Tony Somone throughout the week.

15,000 Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.

Legislators must act for horse racing to continue into 2014

Illinois Legislators will reconvene in Springfield on January 29th to hear Governor Quinn’s State of the State address. It is also imperative that they take the time to pass legislation allowing Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW). ADW allows horse racing fans to bet on horse races online. This is not a new law. ADW has been legal since 2009 but is due to sunset on Jan. 31, 2014. A percentage of ADW wagers fund the Illinois Racing Board (IRB), which regulates horse racing.

Without ADW funds the IRB cannot sufficiently carry out their responsibilities. Consequently, harness racing would see a 95% reduction in racing dates, going from racing 251 days in 2013 to just 13 days in 2014. Such dramatic cuts will effectively kill Illinois horse racing and the thousands of jobs it creates.

Let me be clear. We are not asking for a handout. We simply want to do what we love and earn an honest paycheck. But this bill, which is supported unanimously in the horse racing industry, must pass first.

Illinois horse racing employs more than 15,000 men and women. Because of horse racing in Illinois, not only do trainers, drivers, jockeys and caretakers have jobs but blacksmiths, veterinarians, breeders and racetrack workers such as IRB personnel, security, electricians, waiters, bartenders, tellers and more. Horse racing and breeding are also vital to agricultural business. These are real jobs for real people throughout Illinois.

It is reasonable to assume then, that the Illinois General Assembly would be eager to promote and nurture an industry that provides revenue and jobs in a state that is hungry for just those things.

Our racing season is scheduled to begin February 5. We urge all lawmakers to encourage leadership to call this critical piece of legislation on Jan.29th and show your support with a yes vote.

Sincerely,

Dave McCaffrey, President Illinois Harness Horseman’s Association

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IHHA Membership:

The next couple of weeks are shaping up to be some of the most important in Illinois harness racing's history.  First, the ADW bill needs to pass in order to preserve our five day a week racing schedule.  The first opportunity to pass that bill is Wednesday.  Remember, the bill has to pass both the House and the Senate then needs to be signed by Governor Quinn.  Rest assured, everything possible is being done to make passage of this bill a reality.  

Keep in mind, the ADW bill does not fix horse racing.  It does not change our purse structure nor does it eliminate recapture; however it does give the Racing Board the funding it needs to conduct racing and for that reason we desperately need it to pass.

The second important issue being dealt with is the 2014 contract with Maywood/Balmoral.  Admittedly, negotiating a contract without knowing our racing schedule is a bit like shooting in the dark.  The IHHA, though, is choosing to be optimistic regarding ADW passage and is therefore working on a contract assuming our schedule will begin shortly and run the entire year.    Recapture, and it's potentially devastating effect on 2014 purses is the hot button issue.  Hopefully, we can come to an amicable agreement with the racetracks.

So, there you have it.   We have an unprecedentedly important section of time in front of us.  The horse business is never easy.  Between the weather and these other issues, the next bunch of days will bring it to a new level of toughness.   Please stay warm and check back for timely updates.   

Dave McCaffrey

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Balmoral qualifiers will be held next Wednesday, January 29 at noon. Entries close on Tuesday at 10 a.m. Qualifiers for right now are still scheduled for next Thursday, Jan. 30 at Maywood and next Friday, Jan. 31 at Balmoral. Details to follow. Note the change from previous plans.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014
 

Walker Standardbreds announces new hires

Sherman, Illinois-Walker Standardbreds, owned and operated by Dr. Kenneth Walker and his wife Patricia since 1975 is proud to welcome two new additions to their staff.  Dr. Brian Kennedy has been hired as the new staff veterinarian while Amanda Grim joins the team as the office manager. 

Dr. Kennedy was born and raised in Newton, Illinois with his family who has been active in the horse industry for many years.  He received his Bachelors of Science in Agriculture from Western Illinois University and his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois.  He is certainly not “new” to Walker Standardbreds, as he has worked on and off for Walkers for the last 10 years. He will assist Dr. Walker in maintaining the overall health of the farm’s horses, which includes 115 broodmares, 75 yearlings and 5 stallions.  He adds that he “looks forward to working with Doc and Pat and to gain their knowledge from their many years of experience.”

Amanda resides in Mason City with her husband, David, and their children.  She was born and raised in Southeast Missouri and graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Animal Science.  In addition to her many duties in the office, she will also be responsible for updating and maintaining the farm’s website and social media outlets.  She states “I’m excited to be a part of this amazing group. Everyone here has been so nice and welcoming of me; it has truly been wonderful.  I am looking forward to working with all of the horse owners in the very near future as our foaling and breeding season is just around the corner.”

Walker Standandbreds is located at 7793 Farrand Road, Sherman, IL 62684.  The farm specializes in breeding both on farm and outside owned Standardbred mares and raising high quality yearlings to be sold and trained for the harness racing industry.  Breeding and boarding inquiries should be directed to (217) 496-2378.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The horse racing industry is united in getting the ADW bill (currently SB66) called and passed on January 29th.  This bill is desperately needed for us to resume working again.  While we have no guarantees yet that we will begin racing on Feb.5th, we are working hard to ensure that our 2014 season will begin on time.

With that in mind:

Balmoral Park will hold qualifiers on Tuesday (Jan. 28) and Friday (Jan. 31). Entries for each qualifying date will close at 10 a.m. the day prior to each qualifying date. Starting time for both days will be 10 a.m. as well.

Maywood Park will conduct qualifiers on Thursday (Jan. 30). Entries will close at 10 a.m. on Wednesday (Jan. 29). Qualifiers will begin at 10 a.m.

The first draw for the anticipated Wednesday (Feb. 5) start date at Balmoral Park will be held on Friday (Jan. 31).  A 45-day qualifying standard will be in effect at both ovals.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Greene County Fair was the winning bidder to host the Downstate Classic for the summers of 2014 and 2015. The bid will result in a large increase in purses for these races. To help raise the purse money the Greene County fair is having a raffle. Anyone wanting tickets should contact Craig Grummel at 217-942-3115 or e-mail at grummellaw@gmail.com.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014
 

The Illinois Racing Board is now accepting licensing applications online. All licensing is now online. They will no longer be mailing applications.

Here is a link for you to complete your 2014 applications online.
 

2014 Occupational License

Owners, Trainers, Groomsmen, Vets, Employees, Etc

  IRB LICENSE APPLICATION 2014
 

2014 Multi State License

If you are licensed in AR, AZ, CA, CO, DE, FL, KY, LA, OH, OK, ONT, PA, TX, VA, WA, WV, WY

  IRB MULTI JURISDICTION APPLICATION RCI NRCI RECIPROCITY 

 

2014 Partnership, Trusts, Stable Owners Application

  IRB REGISTRATION APPLICATION OWNERSHIP/PARTNERSHIP/STABLE

 

2014 Harness Only Worker’s Comp Form

  IRB HARNESS WORKERS COMP

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

As we move closer to February I thought an update would be in order.  And since I get asked many good questions every day, I thought I would provide an update in "frequently asked question form."

Question: When will we start racing?
Answer: The official dates schedule for 2014 authorized by the Illinois Racing Board is dependent on passage of the Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) bill. The next scheduled date that the legislature could pass the bill is January 29.
  If the bill passes both houses on that day and the bill is signed by the Governor shortly thereafter, racing will resume as scheduled on February 5  If the bill is not voted on that day, then our return date to race would be delayed. The next scheduled day for the General Assembly to meet and potentially call the bill would be February 4.   

Question: Does the ADW bill have enough support to pass?
Answer: In sample roll call votes (done in December of 2013) the racing industry has determined that there is overwhelming support for the bill.  The question isn't whether it will pass, the question is when or whether it will be called for a vote.  

Question: Who determines whether the bill is called for a vote?
Answer: In the Senate, that is determined by Senate President Cullerton and the sponsor of the bill. In the House, that is determined by House Speaker Madigan and the sponsor of the bill.   

Question: Does Governor Quinn have to sign the bill for it to become law?
Answer: Yes, but he has indicated that once passed, he will sign it.  So his signature is not seen as a roadblock.  

Question: Why is the 2014 schedule dependent on the legislature passing the ADW bill?
Answer: To answer in the simplest way: "because the Illinois Racing Board is broke."   A major part of the IRB's budget comes from ADW wagering.  Last year, six months of revenue was lost by the IRB due to the failure of the Illinois Legislature to pass an ADW extension.  That revenue loss combined with the possibility that again the ADW law would not be extended beyond Jan. 31, 2014 means that the IRB can't regulate anywhere close to the number of days that was raced in 2013.   

Question: Why can't the racetrack owners and horsemen "partner up" and fund the IRB's shortfall?
Answer: This is a very good question that seems like a simple remedy, however the IRB has informed all the parties that there is no legal mechanism through which money can be transferred from horsemen/track owners to the IRB.  All groups have tried very hard to find a way to get the needed money to the IRB, but, it's just not legal.  

Question: If we do start racing in February, what will the qualifying standards be?
Answer: This depends on when we start racing and what policy the race office adopts. If we start on February 5
, there is discussion that a 45 day rule would be enacted.  If it goes much later than that, the current 30 day rule would stay in place to ensure handicappers having confidence in the betting product.   Either way, qualifiers will be held at both tracks during the last week of January.  

Question: What will the purse structure be when we start back?
Answer: The answer to this question will largely be determined by track management’s willingness to defer (wait until a time in the future to collect) a percentage of recapture.  Between the years of 2003 and 2009 the tracks deferred between 70-80% each year.  The last two years, the tracks have taken 100% of the recapture amount since the 3% money put the purse account in a position to pay it.  Since most of the impact fee money is now gone, paying all or most of recapture will have a very detrimental effect on purses.  

In addition to these questions, please feel comfortable in contacting the IHHA with a phone call (630-323-0808) or with an e-mail (tsomone@harnessillinois.com) with any other inquiries that you may have.

Dave McCaffrey

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

USTA District #5 Schedules Annual Membership Meeting and Awards Banquet

The USTA District #5 2013 Membership Meeting and Awards Banquet is scheduled for January 18, 2014 in Springfield, Illinois. It will be held in the Artisan Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds starting at 3:00 PM for the USTA Membership Meeting with the reports, rule change discussions, and reports from the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association and the Illinois Department of Agriculture Bureau of County Fairs and Horse Racing.

The Cocktail reception commences at 5:30 PM with the Awards Banquet following at 6:30 PM. The banquet will be catered by Poe Catering as it was last year. The featured speaker of the banquet is Mike Tanner, Exec. VP of the USTA. Many door prizes have been donated by numerous suppliers, horsemen’s groups and individual horsemen. Illinois Conceived and Foaled Divisional Awards, top stallions, top broodmares, Illinois Horse of the Year,  Illinois Department of Agriculture Awards, Topline Awards and several special awards will be presented. A dance follows the banquet and awards at 9:00 PM.

Banquet tickets are $30 per person, $55 for two or $165 for a table of six. Tickets must be purchased before the event and will be held at the door for your arrival. Tickets may be secured from Sam Lilly 630-373-7670 or Brenda Watson 217-416-3973. Reservation deadline is January 11, 2014. Checks made out to USTA District #5 and mailed to P.O. Box 399, Downers Grove, IL 60515.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

At today's IRB meeting there were no changes made to next year's racing schedule.  The most important event that happened today was that next month's regularly scheduled meeting was postponed until January 31.   On that day, the 2014 schedule may be cemented depending on whether the ADW bill is passed in Springfield.

There was a lot of optimism expressed by the Board that the ADW bill will be passed by then and that we will start racing in early February. 

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Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013

As many of you know, in order to race a full schedule of harness racing next year (beginning Feb. 5th) an ADW law must be passed and signed by Jan.31st 2014. The General Assembly is scheduled to return to Springfield on Jan. 29th. That gives lawmakers basically just two days to call that bill and send it to the Governor for his signature. We are in this position because the Illinois Racing Board lacks the funding to regulate horseracing beyond that point. The IHHA is currently involved in meetings with all industry stakeholders in trying to ensure that we race our full schedule. There are many different ideas out there but unfortunately at this point in time, these ideas must have industry consensus and they must be considered legal within this complicated predicament.  Next Tuesday, Dec. 17th, is the regularly scheduled IRB meeting. We are hopeful that at that meeting a “backup” plan will be cemented. Until then we will continue to explore all possibilities to repair this problem.  If nothing changes from the original dates order however, then our fate is alarmingly clear: an ADW bill must be passed and signed by Jan. 31st for us to begin our season on Feb 5th or we will be relegated to racing on Saturday nights only at Balmoral from July 5th to September 28th, a mere 13 days in 2014.

Dave McCaffrey

 
   

 

Notes and Quotes