Letter to Editor
To the Editor,
In light of recent discussions concerning the future and stabilization of the horse racing industry, I think that it is important to clear up some misunderstandings and realize the truth that has been trampled.
Many like to point the finger at the horse industry, claiming it has received its fair share of assistance from the state, while the truth is that thousands of rank and file horsemen, who represent hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue to the state's economy, have received nothing. Zero. Zip. We have received nothing but promises. We have received the promise of dollars from the 10th riverboat license, the promise of $100 million through a provision called recapture, the promise of three percent from large casinos, the promise of slots, and the promise of equality. Promises, promises, promises, but nothing delivered. Moreover, the highly touted $30 million in property tax relief to the racing industry went not to horsemen and our workers, but to the racetracks. And to say we are the same as the tracks is like saying the electrician who wires your house, is the same as the CEO of General Electric. A handful of families own the racetracks, while as many as 40,000 families are the backbone of the agricultural horse industry.
Meanwhile, those who claim that the horse industry should ungrudgingly participate in free market gaming, neglect the fact that riverboats have received state mandated assistance time and again, most recently through dockside gaming, a provision that has netted riverboats $6 billion in new money.
Everyone is for helping schools, but we must recognize that a strong horse racing industry helps education through tax revenues far more than the costs of any assistance. Conversely, if you destroy thousands of agri-business jobs in horse racing and its related industries, you hurt education across the board. Remember that agriculture is Illinois number one industry. In the aggregate, horse racing and its related agri-business jobs from hay farmers and implement dealers to veterinarians and countless others contribute more than $1 billion to Illinois economy. Real jobs, supporting a real industry.
Illinois is the only major state that has failed to support horse racing in the wake of the proliferation of casinos. What do other states know that Illinois doesn't? Do they support horse racing merely for nostalgia's sake or do they recognize that by keeping horse racing strong they help themselves? The answer is obvious. It's time for Illinois to wake up and smell the roses while we race for them.
President Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association