Report: Illinois officials threaten Arlington Park race dates

September 18, 2019 09:35am

The Illinois Racing Board on Tuesday put off its yearly awarding of race dates for a week as a test of Arlington Park owner Churchill Downs Inc.’s commitment to horse racing.

Bob Kieckhefer, reporting for BloodHorse, wrote that the unanimous decision continued fallout from CDI’s choice to not seek a gaming license at Arlington Park after years of lobbying in the state for just that.

Bill Carstanjen, the CEO of CDI, said in a statement last month that the move was made with “a heavy heart” and because “economic terms under which Arlington would be granted a casino gaming license do not provide an acceptable financial return.”

The company pledged racing through 2021 at Arlington, located across town from Rivers Casino, where CDI acquired a financial interest within the last year. Carstanjen cited a higher tax rate on prospective Arlington gaming due to contributions to racing purses than at existing Chicago-area casinos.

According to BloodHorse, Thomas McCauley, commissioner of the Illinois Racing Board, said the one-week stay on race dates will show “whether (CDI) really wants to signal to the world, once and for all, that it's only a gaming and software company and no longer a horse racing enterprise — whether it wants to jeopardize its racing license and all the revenue which the privilege associated with that license will generate.”

McCauley added that should CDI not change its stance on gaming at Arlington Park — the company has said it prefers to open a sports book, which does not contribute to racing purses — “it may be that there will be no organization license for Arlington and, hence, no racing.”

Other active Illinois tracks include Hawthorne Race Course, which is building a casino, and Fairmount Park.

Aug. 27 was viewed as the deadline for Illinois tracks to apply for a license to conduct slot and table gaming. Churchill Downs announced Aug. 28 that it did not apply, putting racing’s future at Arlington Park — which sits on a valuable parcel of land in suburban Chicago — in question.

Arlington's 2019 live racing concludes for the year on Saturday.


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