Jack Kelly, lobbyist for Maywood and Balmoral Park in Illinois, has been spending a lot of time at the state capital of Springfield as voting nears on a bill that would allow the expansion of gaming, including the introduction of slot machines at racetracks, and in turn create jobs and protect existing ones.
Maywood and Balmoral, as well as the Thoroughbred tracks Hawthorne Racecourse and Arlington Park, and the horsemen's associations have banded together as part of the Illinois Revenue & Jobs Alliance, whose mission is to pass the legislation. Other entities included are labor organizations, business groups, farming and agribusiness interests and local municipalities.
"We're probably the major backers behind this,” Kelly told harnessracing.com. "There are also a lot of people who would be benefiting from the proceeds of the gaming bill.”
This won't be the first go-round for the expanding gaming package; it's been discussed in the state legislature for more than a decade. A bill that provided for slots at the racetracks and four full-blown casinos, including one in Chicago, was finally passed last year but Governor Pat Quinn refused to sign it.
"We've been close to this year every year for about a dozen years,” he said. "Last year we actually passed it out of both chambers, but the governor said he didn't like what was in the bill. Specifically, he said he didn't like slots at the racetracks.
"So we have to pass the bill again, and if he happens to veto it, that we get enough members to override it. Or, maybe he will see that with the bill we are producing all these jobs. He's made a lot of cuts right now so maybe he will have a change of heart.”
Kelly said the legislative deadline is May 31, and that he believes there is building support for the package.
"We're hoping that they call it within the next couple weeks,” said Kelly. "We did some polling and it was very favorable. Right now we're talking to the legislators, giving them information and answering questions. We're optimistic that something will pass.”