Twenty years ago, horses competed more than 100 days during the thoroughbred racing season at Fairmount Park in Collinsville.
That number has been slowly dwindling for years, and track officials got approval this month from the Illinois Racing Board to shorten its planned season by several days, to 36 days. The season was supposed to end September 22nd, but the last horses will compete on Labor Day.
Track president Brian Zander cited continuing competition from casinos. He also says lawmakers have failed to give racetracks the ability to earn additional revenue through slot machines or other gaming.
“We agreed in advance to say that if nothing has happened legislatively or in any other manner – where we could at least have hope for the future – we would cut some days out of the fall,” he said.
This comes as the racing board is considering allowing "historical horse racing,” a form of video gaming on past competitions. Zander says that could help them compete with tracks in other states.
Racing board staff are drafting proposed rules, but it still faces several regulatory hurdles before tracks could get the games.
Officials at Suburban Downs, the harness racing track in Arlington, also got approval in July to cut their season by five days.