The Illinois Racing Board unanimously certified the dispersal of $12.2 million in recapture fees to the state’s three horse racing tracks on Thursday ahead of the 2021 racing season.
Though still a point of consternation for the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (ITHA), the process went far smoother than last year’s certification, when ITHA Executive Director David McCaffrey pointed out a potential flaw in the recapture accounting methods and found himself in a spirited back-and-forth with then-IRB Chairman Jeffrey Brincat.
On Thursday, McCaffrey noted the biggest problem remains the state’s General Assembly not reimbursing the Department of Agriculture — which oversees horse racing in Illinois — to make the overnight purse whole after the recapture money is distributed to the tracks. McCaffrey said this part of the law “has not been followed since 1999” and claimed that nearly $300 million in recapture fees have been distributed to the tracks, a total that includes since-closed tracks at Maywood and Balmoral, since it took effect in 1995.
Hawthorne Race Course, which is in the process of constructing a racino that has a target opening of December, received nearly $5.2 million in recapture fees for both thoroughbred and harness racing. Hawthorne, though, is deferring its collection of recapture fees until the racino is operational and had previously deferred $3.4 million in recapture fees from the 2020 fiscal year.
Arlington International, whose parent company Churchill Downs has not committed to racing at the facility beyond this season, was awarded $4.95 million, while Fairmount Park — which also has plans to expand into a racino — received nearly $2 million.
The return of the St. Louis Derby at Fairmount Park
Near the end of Thursday’s meeting, Fairmount Park General Manager Melissa Helton announced the track has requested Aug. 26 as the date for the running of the St. Louis Derby, which would mark the first time the stakes race will be held in Collinsville since 2006. As part of FanDuel’s rebranding of the track to FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing, the sports betting titan is funding the $250,000 event.
Helton added FanDuel would be in demo at the track starting Monday, though COVID-19 mitigations where the track is located in the southwestern part of Illinois do not currently allow patrons at the grounds. FanDuel announced in November it would transfer its sports betting license from Par-A-Dice Casino to Fairmount Park, which was granted a Master Sports Wagering organizational license by the Illinois Gaming Board in late October.