Letter from Jockeys' Guild to the governor and Illinois legislators
Nov 23rd, 11
When you and your colleagues in the Illinois legislature continue to debate the issue of whether slot machines should be placed at racetracks, I ask that in the end that the bill will obtain the major goal of helpingto save horse racing in Illinois.
I was born and raised in Chicago, and I understand the importance and impact of horse racing in Illinois. I also know that you are being lobbied by large corporations who are looking out for their best interests and, there is no doubt the debate will be intense. However, throughout this process please keep in mind the best interests of the industry as a whole, including all of the owners, breeders, horsemen and their employees, and the jockeys (active and disabled), as well as the agricultural businesses in Illinois that provide goods and services to the industry. All of these components create thousands of jobs within Illinois. The legislation should ensure the long-term success of the horse racing business in Illinois and provide stability for the thousands of Illinois residents who depend on the industry for their livelihood.
All of these people work as partners to entertain the tens of thousands of horse racing fans who come to Arlington Park, Hawthorne Race Course and Fairmount Park. The viability of the industry is essential to the fans’ continued enjoyment and active participation in the sport.
Racing interests have said slots are essential at tracks. We, at the Jockeys’ Guild, don’t necessarily dispute that fact. But there is another issue that I would like for you to consider – an unresolved issue between the Jockey’s Guild and Churchill Downs, Inc. (“CDI”), owner of Arlington Park, and one of the corporations lobbying for slots. CDI is unwilling to recommit to a long-standing agreement that provides temporary disability, life insurance, AD&D and other benefits for active members, as well as assistance that is provided to disabled riders. As such, we would respectfully ask that the legislation include a requirement of a percentage to be withheld in order to provide for the health and welfare of the jockeys who regularly ride in Illinois, such as in the states of California, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
Sadly, we have seen too many recent instances where the racing industry has taken the back seat to other business concerns, and that is affecting the industry’s ability to survive and prosper. While you are considering what is best for the state of Illinois, please ensure that any legislation aimed at improving conditions for the horse industry, takes into account all interests involved, including those owners, breeders, horsemen and their families, jockeys (active and disabled), agriculture businesses, etc.
The state of Illinois, by allowing for slots, is being given an opportunity that would allow for purses to be significantly increased, which would in turn strengthen the horse industry. There would also be the additional revenue to be used however is deemed most appropriate to benefit the state of Illinois. We only ask that the health and well-being of jockeys remain a part of these discussions.
We appreciate your consideration and look forward to a reasonable solution for this pressing issue. We stand ready to assist in any way. Should you need to reach me, please contact me at 859-523-5625 or by email:
Terence J. Meyocks
Jockeys’ Guild, Inc.
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