SPRINGFIELD — Wednesday could be a make or break day for Tom Throgmorton of Carbondale and thousands of others involved in Illinois' horse racing industry.
Thorgmorton is among an estimated 15,000 horse owners, trainers, jockeys and stable-hands who are hoping the Illinois House approves a measure that will allow for a normal season of racing at the state's horse tracks.
If the House doesn't sign off on a plan backed by the horse-racing industry, Throgmorton said he likely will shutter his longtime harness racing stable at the Williamson County Fairgrounds in Marion.
"I would probably drop out if it doesn't get resolved," Throgmorton said Friday.
At stake is a three-year agreement among horse racing interests to extend what is known as advanced deposit wagering, which allows bettors to wager on races online.
Money raised through online betting helps finance the Illinois Gaming Board. If the wagering isn't approved, the gaming board says it will be forced to reduce the number of racing dates drastically at the tracks where Throgmorton and others race their horses.
With too few race dates, he said, he wouldn't be able to continue a business he's been running since the mid-1980s.
"You can't afford to keep your horses at the track," Throgmorton said. "We can't afford to race in Illinois."
All eyes are on Wednesday because that's the last day the House is scheduled to meet before the Illinois Racing Board's Friday deadline to have an agreement in place.
Wednesday also is the day Gov. Pat Quinn is scheduled to deliver his State of the State address. Typically, lawmakers don't do much work that day.
Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said Friday he is not sure the issue, which has won approval in the Senate, will be voted on.
"It's under review," Brown said of the legislation.
But Brown added the speaker is cognizant of the Racing Board's deadline.
"We recognize the calendar," he said.
Throgmorton said it is not just horse owners and trainers who will be affected if the number of racing dates is slashed from 251 to 13. He has to hire a farrier about once a month to change his horses' shoes. He buys grain locally. And he has a veterinarian on call when illness or injuries occur.
With few race dates, he said tracks could simply close for the season.
"There's no point in trying to maintain the facilites," Throgmorton said.
Other owners or trainers could move out of state, where racing is subsidized by allowing slot machines at the race tracks.
The legislation is Senate Bill 66.