Horse owners are no longer waiting for their winnings from harness races this summer at the State Fair and Du Quoin.  They’ve been paid by the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, which fronted the money. President David McCaffrey says the horse owners need the money right away.
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“It’s not as meaningful to us (the association) how long it takes as it would be to the grass roots owner who bred and raised a horse, trained the horse, staked the horse, brought the horse to the state fairgrounds to race it, and went through all of those expenses that are incurred by doing that. They need that money now,” he said.
At issue is almost $1 million in purses to be paid to 400 claimants. McCaffrey says at regular tracks, the prizes are paid out within 24 hours, but the Illinois Department of Agriculture can take several months.  The source of the money is stake fees, which horse owners pay to make their horses eligible to race, entry fees for a particular race, a portion of the wagering handle on a race, and a contribution from the Department of Agriculture.
The money the Harness Horsemen’s Association is using the front the winnings comes from the impact fees collected on behalf of the racing industry from the state’s four top-grossing casinos from 2006-11. This is the second time the association has fronted the winnings, and McCaffrey says it’s probably the last, since the impact fees are no longer being collected.
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