Future uncertain for Arlington International Racecourse

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill.  — The Illinois Racing Board is demanding more details on the long term plans for the Arlington International Racecourse by Tuesday.

This week, the board delayed a vote on awarding racing dates for next year. Saturday is the last day of racing for 2019.

Arlington’s future remains uncertain.

After lobbying for the gaming expansion that Gov. Pritzker signed into law in June, the racetrack’s parent company Churchill Downs, Inc. made the surprise announcement that it would not seek a casino license, citing the tax burden of the new law.

This came after the company acquired a majority stake last year in Rivers Casino in Des Plaines with plans to expand.

Commissioners want a commitment that there will be racing at Arlington beyond 2021 and they want Churchill Downs to reconsider passing on the casino license.

The president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (ITHA) said this is a devastating development for the growth of the state’s racing industry with tax revenue and hundreds of jobs at stake.

"I’m disappointed for my horsemen. I’ve been moved from madness to tears. At the same time, it’s the state that should be disappointed. They were the ones who were courted and left at the altar,” said ITHA president Michael Campbell. “It doesn’t even make sense.”

Arlington Racecourse does plan to apply for a sports betting license, but those profits would not go to horse racing.

Arlington International Racecourse and Churchill Downs Inc. had no comment on Thursday.

The Illinois Racing Board is scheduled to meet on Tuesday.

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