St. Louis Public Radio News
10:22 am
Mon January 25, 2010

Fairmount to keep racing in 2010

Collinsville, IL – The Fairmount Park race track in Collinsville will continue business after a tentative labor agreement restored nearly all of its live racing dates.

The move to cut the track's racing days from 52 to three was in partial response a breakdown in labor negotiations between the board and six of its track supervisors.

Local officials estimate that closing the track would have affected an additional 1,000 workers.

Several state lawmakers including Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, are pushing a bill that would bar the racing board from using labor negotiations as grounds for closing a track.

"The racing board is constituted by law to fairly regulate an industry," Haine said. "It is not constituted to put a part of that industry out of business. That is not their mission."

Fairmount is the only horse racing track in Illinois outside of the Chicago area.

But Illinois Racing Board President Marc Laino says the heart of the issue was paying full-time wages to supervisory staff for Fairmount's short season.

"It's unreasonable to expect full time employment for a race track that runs 52 days of live racing," said Laino.

"I would think that the taxpayers would be outraged if a state agency paid state employees to sit at a racetrack that was dark."

In response to the board's budget concerns, the Illinois General Assembly will raise Fairmount's operating tax to three quarters of a percent to help generate more revenue.