The head of a racing organization says he doubts lawmakers will override the governor’s veto of the casino expansion bill. The bill would have added five new casinos, as well as slot machines at the tracks. Lawmakers will have an opportunity to override that veto in November and December, but David McCaffrey, president of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, says given that the legislation passed the Illinois Senate with 30 votes, the minimum needed, the chance of an override is remote.
The industry really wants the slot machines at the tracks, more than just a handout of money siphoned from the top-grossing casinos, which the racing industry enjoyed from 2006-11, though the money was held up in litigation, McCaffrey says. “With a subsidy that is given from the riverboats to the race tracks, I think that it’s a much more cloudy future than slot machines, actual physical slot machines, at a race track that are gonna be there for years and year to come, and that are gonna produce millions and millions of dollars for the industry,” he said.
McCaffrey says for harness racing alone, contested at Maywood, Balmoral, the State Fair, the Du Quoin Fair and dozens of county fairs, purses are $15 million a year; slot machines would add $25 million to $30 million per year to that.
McCaffrey says the racing industry should heed the governor’s objections and work with him. The governor says he believes the bill doesn’t contain sufficient oversight.