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Monday, May 2, 2016

Not Showing Love to Illinois Racing; A New Frontier in the Announcer Booth

Horsemen are hopping made out in Illinois.  A press release on behalf of the IHHA condemns the fact state legislators are looking to legalize fantasy sports gambling which produces no jobs in the Prairie state instead of working on fixing horse racing which employees 14,000 in the state (all breeds).

Granted, it is a lot easier to legalize daily fantasy sports (DFS) contests than it will to fix horse racing.  The fact the state will no doubt tax (charge fees to) companies offering DFS gives them the incentive to do so as well.  Also making it easier for passing a DFS bill is the fact no slot machines are attached to the legislation though no doubt the casinos in Illinois would love to have sports gaming but that will likely depend on what happens with the New Jersey lawsuit.

Still, horse racing has been on life support for a long time.  A bill allowing slots at racetracks in Illinois passed in 2012 only to be vetoed by then Governor Quinn. Since then, no other racino bill has been able to get support, leaving harness racing dependent on one extended meet track (Hawthorne) and thoroughbred racing in similarly dire straights.

External factors have caused Maywood to shutter though if not for the scandal the track may have still closed.  Balmoral is now shuttered, given no dates this year, with an auction of its assets put on hold because someone came out in the last moment offering to buy the track; exactly for what purpose is not known.  Thoroughbreds are split between Arlington and Hawthorne with a summer meet at Fairmount Park; none of these tracks are exactly thriving.  Arlington just settled a dispute with their horsemen which arose when among other things they attempted to change the way they card races, to put on the least expensive racing possible.

Yes, it is hard work to pass a racing bill in Illinois, having to fight the casino industry always is.  But not to even try to get a racing bill through is inexcusable.

A new frontier has been broken through as Golden Gate Fields has hired the first full time female race caller in North America.  Angela Hermann, the on-air personality and substitute track announcer at Canterbury Park has been given the nod and will be in the booth.  No doubt this will be quite a change for race goers and it will be interesting to see how she will be received.  As far as I am concerned, it may be a bit strange initially but as long as the calls are accurate, that is all which matters.  It will be interesting to see how long it will be until there is a full time distaff announcer in the booth at one of harness racing's raceways.

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