Springfield Journal-Register: Illinois horse breeders fading as other states pass on by

Yesterday, the newspaper from our state capital detailed the worsening plight of the Illinois Horse Industry following another General Assembly session without a gaming bill to provide more revenue and jobs. Below is the fast part of the article, to read it in-full, please follow the link below.

The declining state of the Illinois horse racing and breeding industry really hasn’t even been a topic  for debate. But with the legislature and the governor unable to agree on a way to help — read, allowing slot machines at race tracks — the situation seems to worsen every year.

“It’s headed toward being just a hobby,” said Kenneth “Doc” Walker, a veterinarian who along with his wife, Pat, owns Walker Standardbreds near Sherman, one of the largest harness horse breeding operations in the state. “The purses are just dwindling to that point. The prices we get for yearlings depend on what they can race for once they’re trained.”

And that amount has been declining compared to other states as they use money from slots to boost purses at out-of-state tracks.

“It’s a matter of purses not keeping up with other states,” said Charlyn Fargo, bureau chief of county fairs and horse racing at the Illinois Department of Agriculture. “Purses in Indiana are four times what they are in Illinois. They have slots.”

In 1993, harness race purses totaled $41.7 million in Illinois, but were only $24.3 million last year, according to the Illinois Racing Board.

The Department of Agriculture registers foals, mares and stallions in Illinois.

“There are incentives offered to Illinois-breds when they race,” Fargo said.  “We want more babies born here. It’s good for agriculture.”

For the rest of the June 26 article, please click here.

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