Yesterday, the Illinois Racing Board had an unanimous vote to give the green light to horse racing at Arlington International Racecourse in 2020, in spite of the fact that Churchill Downs, which currently owns the track, has decided not to file an application for a casino operating license for the facility.
Last week, Racing Board officials threatened not to give permission for the 68 racing dates Arlington International Racecourse had applied for 2020. The Illinois racing regulatory body clarified that they still wanted to see casino gambling available at the flagship thoroughbred racetrack of the state. The regulator, however, was not ready to disrupt the racing events scheduled for the time being.
Churchill Downs’ senior vice president and general counsel Brad Blackwell told Illinois Racing Board that they needed more time for consideration. The now-owners of the Arlington racetrack bought the facility in 2000 and currently owns a majority interest in Des Plains-based Rivers Casino. In August, the company unveiled plans to file an application for a sports betting license for the racetrack under the recent gambling expansion in Illinois. At the time of the announcement, the operator revealed its decision not to add casino gaming stations at the location.
A massive horse racing interests’ lobby in Illinois has long been calling for the addition of casino gaming at racetracks across the state as a way to boost Illinois’ tax revenue and to make racetrack betting more competitive against other forms of gambling. However, the President of Arlington Park, Tony Petrillo, said that it would be hard for the owners of the track to remain competitive in case they are imposed a 20% higher tax rate compared to the one paid by the existing casinos.
Adding Casino Operations Would Keep Arlington Park Competitive, Regulatory Body Claims
Previously, Mr. Petrillo has asked the Illinois Gaming Board to grant permission to the racing dates in order to help the company preserve over 2,300 seasonal, part- and full-time jobs and the revenue generated for the area’s northwest suburbs.
According to the President of the Arlington Park, the potential closure of the facility would have a strong negative impact on the northwest suburbs’ economy and entertainment climate but it would also be a serious blow for the entire racing industry in the state of Illinois. Back in August, the racetrack, which started operation in 1927, hinted that it would consider longer-term alternatives at the closure of the 2021 racing season, including a possible move to another location.
This announcement has caused much concern for the Illinois Racing Board that also shared that Arlington Park was obliged to apply for the casino license in order to keep the local horse racing industry alive. Back in June, the Governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker signed a proposed gambling expansion into law, as part of the state’s efforts to add an extra $350 million in annual revenue to coffers. The expansion allowed sports betting and other growth opportunities for gambling companies in the state. Under the law, Churchill Downs was given the right to add up to 1,200 casino gaming positions at its Arlington Park racetrack facility.
In addition to Arlington Park, the state’s racing regulatory body also granted racing dates to Fairmount Park, Playing in the Park and Hawthorne Race Course.