Calabrese Gone; Village Board Polled on Slots at Arlington Park: Where Do They Stand?

Competition for top horse race money now apparently depends on a race track’s ability to have alternate revenue stream — namely slot machines. Arlington Park seems to be caught in a game of ‘show me the money’ to horse owners, and instead is forced to ask for more money from the horse owners. The word is that Arlington Park has a new rule this upcoming season that reduces purses 15 percent if the field size is six or less. One horseman, Frank C. Calabrese, a resident of Illinois and figurehead at Arlington Park, says racing conditions in Illinois have him thinking about moving his operations to Florida. Calabrese is sending 60 horses to Calder Casino & Race Course owned by Churchill Downs Inc. in Miami Gardens, Florida, when the meet opens April 25, 2011. In late-2009, Calder changed its official name to Calder Casino & Race Course, and opened Studz Poker Club, a 29-table card room located in the Grandstand. Arlington Park is also owned by Churchill Downs.

Horseman Frank C. Calabrese’s decision to race in Florida this summer, instead of Arlington Park, could herald a threatening trend at the premier race track in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Could lower quality racing, indirectly caused by lack of slots, lead to even great reduction in revenue — and eventually the closing of Arlington Park altogether?

Calabrese, a resident of Illinois, has been a mainstay at Arlington Park during the summer, but according to a report in the Daily Racing Forum, Calabrese said finances have dictated a change in plans. In the winter Calabrese already races at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Hallandale Beach, Florida. Instead of heading 1,400 miles north to Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Illinois; he’ll jog about 10 miles southwest to Calder Casino & Race Course in Miami Gardens, Florida. Like Calder, Gulfstream has a casino, too. Gulfstream began a $130 million renovation of the grandstand and clubhouse in 2004, and slot machines were approved for Gulfstream in 2004.

“I just can’t make any money in Chicago the way the purses are structured now. It will cost me at least $60,000 or maybe more just to ship the ones I have here back there at the end of this meet and it will be impossible for me to make that kind of money up.”

— Frank Calabrese

Arlington Park officials have said for a long time that other forms of gambling are necessary for the race track to stay in operation. In 1995, voters in Arlington Heights gave a narrow 38-vote victory for expanded gambling casino-like at Arlington Park in a non-binding referendum. The track, then called Arlington International, provided financial support for the referendum campaign with banners and brochures. A current bill introduced by Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, would allow up to 1,200 slot machines at Arlington Park. The question of 24-hour gambling is up in the air.

Flash forward to April 2011 … The Daily Herald polled the current village board and reported the following comments from each board member:

Village President Arlene Mulder:
“… fear of losing the track is so strong she now can “tolerate” the idea of slots at the racetrack”

Trustee Tom Glasgow:
“If we were given the ability to decide …(he’s) leaning toward allowing it.” But “he’s not firmly in the ‘yes’ column.”

Trustee Joseph Farwell:
“leaning toward approval … thinks residents will get behind it” … doesn’t “think a majority of the constituents want to see the track go dark because they weren’t allowed to have slots.”

Carol Blackwood:
Supports “slots at the track stands” … “a business decision, based on Arlington Park’s review of their business plan.”

Trustee Norm Beyer:
“Would look at any proposal, but opposes 24-hour gambling” … “Perhaps slots should be allowed only during racing season” … “Wants updated sense of what residents think.” (He may have lost 1997 election by work of anti-gambling forces miffed at 1995 referendum results.)

Trustee Bert Rosenberg:
“Does not flat-out oppose expanding gambling, and says the track should be given help.” … Wants “100 slot machines, not 1,200.”

Trustee John Scaletta:
No committal; says he hasn’t seen a formal proposal from Arlington Park.

Trustee Thomas Hayes:
Opposes “a casino to be placed at the track or anywhere in the village” … “My only flexibility would be a very small number (of slots) that would be placed within the existing facility and only operational and accessible during racing times.”

Trustee-elect Mike Sidor:
“Opposes slot machines at the track” … “willing to listen ‘to any and all information and weigh that information.’”

Almost all states have legalized gambling in the form of a state-run lottery. Opponents to extra gambling features at the horse racing track likely oppose the effects of gambling addiction or possibly a perceived reputation that accompanies a community with a casino.

Although the term gambling addiction is common in the recovery movement, pathological gambling is considered to be an impulse control disorder and is therefore not considered by the American Psychological Association to be an addiction. As preparations for the fifth revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) are under way, a change is proposed for DSM-V to alter the chapter name to ‘Addiction and Related Disorders’, which will include disordered gambling.

The Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, uses the term gambling addiction. Problem gambling is often associated with increased suicidal ideation and attempts — compared to the general population

Some casinos and state lottery programs offer a Self/Voluntary Exclusion program. When a person signs up for one of these programs, they are effectively banned from the casino, and are arrested upon entry; in the case of a state lottery program, they are not permitted to cash out winnings, thereby removing the positive incentive to gamble. Once a person signs up for a Self Exclusion program, the ban may or may not be permanent. However, it must be stated that the actual execution of the program is more difficult than it would appear in theory, because it involves security finding the people and then removing them. There have been lawsuits because people have still been able to gamble in a casino after signing up for the programs.

1 Comment

  1. Anyone with any common sense should know that Arlington Park needs a casino or at least slots and a lot of them to stay competitive. It’s strange how all of these politicians don’t commit. True they are concerned about representing their constituency, but it would be nice to see at least one of the board members in support of the race track with a sign of commitment to the track. The track is treated like a leper.

    Arlington Park is out of the way of the main village, and has direct access to Route 53. Give the track all the casino amenities they want, force the Casino parking year round on the west side of the property by offering proof of parking on the west side to collect winnings. Encourage and build an industry of medical specialists that work on gambling disorders and other addictions, since gambling is known to be co-morbid with alcoholism, etc. We all know Arlington Heights already has plenty of addicted people walking around downtown, or hanging out at the train station, or walking to and from PADS sites or passed out on sidewalks at random locations. Work an agreement with the race track to help with the homeless and addicted as part of the deal to give them a top notch casino.

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