To say harness racing interests are holding their breath in Illinois is an understatement. The casino bill which would allow racinos at racetracks is being pocketed by the state Senate in order to keep Governor Quinn from vetoing the bill. It is anticipated that slots at the Illinois State Fair Grounds will be sacrificed in order to get the legislation pushed through.
Let's assume the bill is approved, with the exception of slots at the fairgrounds. Purses at Balmoral and Maywood increases, harness racing returns to Quad City Downs. Thoroughbred racing also profits. Being a large metropolitan area, expect many mid-westerners to the return to the Illini state to resume their career.
Now, should the bill fail, racing as we know it will cease to exist. Maywood is likely to close and Quad City Downs will not reopen. Purses at Balmoral will not improve. But for a more important view of what racing in Illinois will look like, politicians and horsemen only need to cast their gaze east to New Jersey where a casino lobby and political alliance is suffocating the industry. Breeding farms will close, horses will be sold for nearly nothing which will further exasperate the decline of breeding. More importantly, an industry hard pressed to maintain a foothold in large metropolitan areas runs the risk of Chicago not being in their market. Yet people throughout the industry came to the defense of the Meadowlands, yet nary a roar of support for Illinois horsemen from out of staters.