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In Loss of Casino Opportunity, Hawthorne Sees Positive Signs For Slots Legislation
Racing Industry is Rallied to Push for Extension of Impact Fees from Riverboats


Stickney, IL—The Illinois Gaming Board announced today that Hawthorne Race Course would not be among the final three applicants for the state's tenth and final license. "We knew that our bid was a bit of a long-shot in that most other applicants have been working on their proposals for years, not only two months like us," said Tim Carey, president of Hawthorne Gaming, LLC. "But part of our intent was to showcase the real need for legislative support of the racing industry and we clearly have helped focus the media spotlight on that."


There are over 40,000 jobs dependent on the agribusiness of horseracing in Illinois. Historically, one of the top four states in the nation for betting, Illinois has fallen to 12th during a time when most other states have passed legislation allowing for slot machines at race tracks. Slots at 'racinos' provide for larger purses, which in turn attract more and better quality horses, and thus generate more competitive betting opportunity.


"The reality is that racing has a very proud heritage in Illinois and without some legislative relief very soon, the sport won't last much longer," said Carey, whose family has owned and operated Hawthorne Race Course for 100 years. "I think that our casino bid was a real wake-up call for Springfield that if they are serious about saving jobs and helping the economy, which is the point of the Riverboat Act, then we need the same kind of support for racing, and we need it soon."


Since 1999 when 'dockside' legislation was passed allowing riverboats to remain harbored, casino revenues have increased 50-60%. Though impact fees from northern Illinois riverboats were supposed to be paid to the race tracks that money has been held in escrow pending litigation, further debilitating the national competitiveness of Illinois racing. In July the Illinois Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the racing industry, but that decision is expected to be appealed to the United State Supreme Court. Legislators in Springfield are currently working to pass an extension of the impact fees, which have already expired.


Most leaders in the racing industry were strong supporters of Hawthorne's casino bid. "What is most satisfying is how quickly the Illinois Racing Board and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen supported this bid," said Carey. "From fans, to owners, horsemen, jockeys and our champions in the legislature; anyone who is serious about saving this historical sport and the 40,000 jobs associated with it immediately understood that we collectively needed to push our case for relief. The full casino would have put Illinois back on top of the national circuit, but with slots legislation and/or extension of the impact fees we can at least be competitive again very soon."



Hawthorne is the oldest sports venue in Illinois and is a 4th generation family-owned and operated race track now in its 100th year—the oldest in the nation. Located just seven miles from downtown Chicago, Hawthorne is currently running its fall thoroughbred meet until January 11, 2009. Racing Wednesday through Sunday.

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