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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Jan 6, 2003  •  Post A Comment

NATIONAL JOCKEY CLUB: DON’T BEAT HORSE RACING

I am writing with reference to Crain’s edito-rial “State must knock racing subsidies off the track” (Dec. 16) and recent articles which referred to a bailout of National Jockey Club (NJC). I hope you can understand how important it is to this business that the facts surrounding National Jockey Club be fairly and accurately reported.

The legislation NJC is supporting in the Illinois House does not provide a bailout; it simply provides that NJC not be treated differently from other tracks and that it not be penalized for following the direction of the Illinois Racing Board and consolidating with Hawthorne Race Course.

The Bidwill family has operated NJC for over 70 years, and if you ask anyone of any standing on the Illinois Racing Board, Charles W. “Stormy” Bidwill Jr., a director emeritus and former chairman of NJC, is acknowledged as the only racing executive who would put the interests of the industry before personal interests. Under Bidwill leadership, backstretch facilities were so dramatically improved that the track was unique in the country for the quality of its living quarters for backstretch employees. When the horse-racing business first began to decline, it was only NJC that sacrificed company profits and intentionally overpaid horsemen purses to the extent of $4 million, solely in an effort to help the industry and keep Illinois horse racing strong.

In 1994, when Arlington Park threatened to shut its doors because it could not provide adequate purse money to its horsemen, Stormy Bidwill and Thomas Carey of Hawthorne Race Course led by guaranteeing the payment of purses at Arlington, which ensured that Arlington remained open, at least for a time.

In 1999, NJC and a partner invested over $70 million in a project to diversify the business into an auto-racing facility and put millions of private dollars into the economy and community, and created hundreds of medium-term jobs. NJC did not receive public funding for the investment and the recapitalization of the project does not include any publicly funded support.

As I am sure Crain’s takes pride in the integrity of its paper, NJC takes pride in the way it has tried to manage its business in the face of serious industry challenges. NJC has continually worked for the benefit of the industry and continued to reinvest in its community and business, and has now taken the step to follow the expressed direction of the regulatory board by consolidating with Hawthorne. NJC simply asks that the facts be presented fairly and that a good business not be punished for doing the right thing.

Patricia Bidwill ChairmanNational Jockey ClubCicero

. . . scratch that

Thank you, Crain’s, for the editorial opposing subsidies for the racetrack industry in Illinois.

As an organization of hundreds of seniors who depend on a wide range of state-funded services, from public transportation to in-home care, Jane Addams Senior Caucus knows firsthand the pain of the Illinois budget crisis. Many times, these services actually save taxpayers money, such as when the state spends money to provide in-home care and avoids costly placement in nursing homes.

Often, the argument for leaner government is simply cover for reducing services for our society’s most vulnerable. When a business publication comes out against industry subsidies, it sends a powerful message that the consequences of our state’s financial downturn must be shared by all.

Please continue weighing in on this crucial topic, and let’s hope that we can reach a solution to our budget crisis that all of us can live with.

Kenneth SnyderExecutive directorJane Addams Senior CaucusChicago

Fast track to Indy

What about high-speed rail service to Indianapolis? (Joe Cappo, “Putting inter-city rail system on fast track,” Dec. 16).

As a resident of Chicago, I see a lot more Indiana plates in town than Michigan plates, and I’ll bet a lot belong to people who moved here to work. Chances are, since Indianapolis is Indiana’s largest city, that many are from there, and Indianapolis is, I believe, a lot more economically healthy than either St. Louis or Detroit. Plus, Indianapolis does not have a major hub airport like the other cities; thus, I’ll bet some people would travel here for purposes of flying, especially vacationers. They could bookend a trip to other places with a stay in Chicago, and get cheaper airfares to boot. And it would be a shorter trip than to either St. Louis or Detroit.

Jim Price Chicago

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