Illinois Racing Board Awards Arlington International Racecourse 68 Live Racing Dates for 2020 Racing Season


The Illinois Racing Board voted unanimously Tuesday to award Arlington Park 2020 race dates.

Arlington International Racecourse was awarded 68 live racing dates for the 2020 season on Tuesday September 24, 2019 in a 9-0 vote by the Illinois Racing Board.

Drama developed over the last week when Illinois Racing Board members implied that racing dates for the 2020 could be withheld if the Churchill Downs didn’t specify their long-term plans for Arlington after the company didn’t apply for a casino license that once was hailed as a lifeline for the struggling racing industry.

The board criticized Churchill Downs in August when the owners of Arlington International Racecourse announced the company would not seek a state license for casino table games and slots at the racetrack, while claiming the suburban gambling market is now saturated and that the gambling expansion legislation approved by state lawmakers contains an unfavorable tax structure for Arlington’s potential involvement in with casino table games and slots.

Churchill officials remain defiant regarding casino table games and slots for casino-style gambling at Arlington International Racecourse, but pledged to continue live horse racing at least through 2021.

“We need time to figure this out and we would appreciate your patience as we do so.”

— Brad Blackwell, Churchill’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel

Arlington President Tony Petrillo presented a letter from Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes addressing the Illinois Racing Board, declaring that the closure of Arlington would cost the village $1 million in annual revenues and more than 2,000 jobs, and be a “black eye” for the Illinois racing industry.

Arlington has always been a top-tier facility regarding the character, fitness, reputation and integrity of the racetrack’s owners and operators; and Churchill Downs is likely gambling on the premise that the members of the Illinois Racing Board don’t want to be the administrators that destroyed Arlington while squeezing it with an unfair tax structure and regulations, and failing to acknowledge its higher overhead.

Churchill Downs has a majority stake in Rivers Casino in Des Plaines and is bidding for a proposed casino named “Casino Fontana” in Waukegan. Five other organizations are also bidding for the opportunity to develop Casino Fontana.

The Illinois Racing Board also awarded racing dates to Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney, Fairmount Park in Collinsville, and a new racino proposed in Tinley Park.

The meeting was held at the James R. Thompson center in downtown Chicago, where the board’s administrative staff and central offices are located.

Each year the Board issues racing licenses and establishes a racing schedule for the state’s operating racetracks, both thoroughbred and harness. The race date allocation process involves an assessment of each racetrack’s application for a racing license in view of the best interest of Illinois racing and such factors as the racetrack’s facilities and accommodations for the public, the tax revenues to be generated for the state from various race meets, the extent of promotional and marketing activities, the character, fitness, reputation and integrity of the racetrack’s owners and operators, and each racetrack’s compliance with affirmative action plans.

Off-track or “OTB” licenses are issued by the Board on an annual basis. Fairmount is allowed 9, Hawthorne is allowed 16 and Arlington is allowed to have 18.  An off-track facility may not be located within 500 feet of any church, school or residence and must be located within 140 miles of the applicant’s racetrack. Additionally, all Illinois racetracks are entitled to accept intertrack simulcast wagers when they are not conducting live racing.



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