After a flurry of activity and a hearty debate among the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (IHHA) board of directors reached an agreement on a contract with Maywood Park and Balmoral Park on Thursday night. IHHA president Dave McCaffrey posted the following update on the IHHA website, and noted that the deal begins March 14 and runs through June 30, 2015.
"In this 16 month contract, the purse cut will be 10 percent now and stay at that level through Jan. 4 of 2015. Then, there will be a 24-day dark period (from Jan. 4 through Jan. 28). On Jan. 29, 2015 the purses will be cut an additional 15 percent. The purse overpayment will increase to the amount equivalent to 35 percent of recapture (or $2.5 million). Those purse structures almost certainly will get us to June 30, 2015. Additionally, Wednesday racing will be eliminated in 2015.
"Nobody knows more than I how painful purse cuts are but this deal at least gives us 10 months of a relatively small cut and another six months that are at least spelled out for everyone to see in advance. The fact of the matter is, in our opinion, this is the best we can do with the dreadful hand we are dealt. Recapture eats up almost 40 percent of what we generate and that percentage only grows when our handle declines.
"This process has been very frustrating and extremely agonizing. It took crazy twists and turns and at times looked as though no contract would ever be signed. In the end, we have 16 months of racing ahead of us and three legislative sessions to possibly be "saved." Everyone knows the story and everyone should understand that the clock on the life of Illinois harness racing is ticking.
"In addition, I want to earnestly thank the racetracks, not for their unremitting stubbornness, but for the way they conducted themselves publicly with respect to literature and pronouncements they put forth. Both sides tried very hard to keep the "warfare decibel level" to a minimum and that kept the process shorter than it otherwise would have taken. Also, let's not forget that the tracks, to their credit, are extending us an interest free line of credit of $2.5 million.
"Finally, a huge thank you to all of the people who texted, called, emailed, etc. and all of the staff and directors of the IHHA. We used all of those communications as a measuring stick of support and we've been overwhelmed by that unwavering backing.
"Have a great 16 months of racing!"