Metro East News Briefs

Fairmount Park seeks ‘historical betting’ as season ends

The Illinois Racing Board, July 26, approved a new form of video gambling at financially-troubled Fairmont Park and two other horse racing tracks.

However, historic horse racing (HHR) games will require additional regulatory approval, perhaps legislative approval, and likely face a legal challenge, track management admits.

Anticipated revenue from the new games will not come in time to save the landmark Collinsville’s 2018 season.

Fairmount Park is set to close for the year on Aug. 15 — more than a month sooner than in most past years, track officials confirmed last week.   They cite declining revenues, which could leave the track unable to cover bets toward the end of the racing year.

Tracker owners informed the racing board last year they might have to end their 2018 season as early as July 3, if additional revenue sources were not secured. They settled on a revised racing schedule with an August closing date earlier this year.

Forty-one live racing dates were originally planned at Fairmount Park this year, from May 1 to Sept. 22. And even that would have tied for the record the fewest dates in a season in the track’s 93-year history.

Spokespersons say growing competition from casinos and video gaming parlors has hurt revenues at horse tracks.

Legislation to allow common forms of video gambling — such as video poker or video slot machines — at horse tracks has been stalled in the Illinois General Assembly for several years.

The state racing board last voted to allow a specialized form of horse-race-themed video gambling at race tracks

The historic race betting games would allow track patrons to view, and bet on, videos of thousands of previously-run horse races at tracks around the nation.

Races are selected automatically by the video gaming terminal. Players choose three horses to bet on, either at random or by viewing racing forms or statistics on past performance.

The video of the race then plays in the corner of the gaming terminal’s screen, next to a graphic of spinning wheel, much like that of a slot machine.

The player wins if the selected horses finish the race in the selected order, or match with symbols on the wheel.

Also known as “instant racing” games, HHS terminals are offered by two manufacturers: PariMax Holdings and Exacta Systems.

Proponents say HHR provides a unique new form of gaming appropriate for horse racing tracks.

Opponents say it is just another form video gaming and the horse track would need legislative approval for implementation.

Historic racing games are presently allowed at race tracks in five states; including Kentucky, where racing laws are much like those of Illinois.

The racing board began looking into historical horse racing in June at the request of operators of Fairmount Park and Hawthorne Racecourse in the Chicago suburb or Cicero.  Under the racing board’s ruling, Arlington Park in Arlington Heights would also be allowed to add historical horse racing.

The racing board’s ruling must now be reviewed by the office of Gov. Bruce Rauner and then the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.

AARP to examine state’s fiscal woes in Alton

The Elections 2018: Seeking Fiscal Solutions, a town hall-style meeting on Illinois’ long-standing budgetary problems, has been scheduled by the Illinois chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), National Public Radio (NPR) of Illinois, and the Illinois Issues Forum, for Aug. 16 at the Post Commons, 300 Alby St., in Alton.

“For too long the state of Illinois has suffered through a lengthy fiscal crisis that continues to impact all of its citizens. When will state finances be restored, service providers paid, vulnerable residents in need of caregiving services receive proper attention, and the state’s debt burden be resolved?” asked Ryan Gruenenfelder, director of advocacy and outreach for AARP Illinois. “We must continue to pressure our elected officials to work together and find solutions to answer these questions that have the state of Illinois in such distress.”

Named repeatedly in studies as the nation’s most troubled state, Illinois has $3 billion in long-term debt, a $9.3 billion backlog in unpaid bills for day-to-day services, and a $130 billion unfunded pension liability.

Speakers at next week’s meeting will review the fiscal challenges facing the Prairie State and gather input from meeting attendees on the impact of the state’s budget problem on state residents.

The meeting will be video- and audio-taped as well as broadcast live by NPR Illinois. A reception will follow.

Admission is free but, due to limited space, reservations are requested at 877-926-8300 or

Employment up in Madison County, down in St. Clair

Madison County saw employment increased 1.8 percent, year-over-year, during the final quarter of 2017, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, released July 19.

In St. Clair County, employment decreased 0.4 percent during the final quarter of last year.

Wages in Madison County increased 2 percent, year-over-year during the same period, salaries in St. Clair County increased 2.4 percent.

The average weekly wage in Madison County was $857; ranking 305th in the nation; and in St. Clair County $856; ranking 306th.

The average worker in Clinton Count earned a weekly wage of $768 during the reporting period.  The average weekly pay check in Bond Count was $756; in Jersey County, $673; in Monroe County, $728; and in Randolph County, $813.

The BLS provides detailed year-over-year data only for Illinois’ 13th largest counties.

Madison County Democrats triple war chest

The Madison County Democratic Central Committee saw a burst of funding raising in July. After reporting just $15,157.10 at the end of the Illinois Board of Elections second 2018 (covering April, May, and June), the Madison County Democrats raised $45,495.00 during July, for a current total of $60,652.10 in cash on hand.

That was more than any other county-based political organization in Illinois and 85th among all state-registered political organizations, last month, according to the campaign finance tracking organization, Illinois Sunshine.


–Metro East News Briefs–