Arlington International Racecourse has been closed for quite some time and its owner, Churchill Downs, was planning on selling the property, with a focus on creating a Waukegan casino. Despite this fact, a request was made to continue operating off-track betting options in the state. The Illinois Racing Board has denied this request during a recent board meeting.
The board voted in a 5-5 tie, with much criticism against Churchill Downs Inc.’s history in the state. Board members agreed to allow the company to continue to operate TwinSpires. The company can operate via a new agreement that was signed with FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing.
History of Ownership
Churchill Downs Inc. first acquired Arlington in 2000 during a merger. By 2019, the company decided to decline the opportunity to create a casino onsite. The decision was met with criticism as it cost horsemen millions in potential purse money per year.
The property was then listed for sale and 2022 racing dates were not applied for. With this decision, it left only the Hawthorne Race Course as the only Chicago area active race track. The Chicago Bears NFL team signed an agreement to purchase Arlington with the goal of creating a stadium on the property.
CDI president and chief operating officer Bill Mudd was hopeful that Arlington would be able to operate its off-track betting system at Arlington while a new location is considered. Mudd presented this idea during the board meeting.
The company has considered moving to a new location for two years now. The discussion of moving to a new spot was met with criticism by the board due to the recent actions of the company. Board members asked Mudd what evidence there was that proved the company was actively looking for a new location.
During his remote presentation, Mudd stated that state law allows the company to have operated off-track betting systems for up to two years without running races. The company wanted to do this while trying to look for an alternate location of operation. Mudd reiterated that if the company knew that a solution could not be found, they would turn their license in that day.
The board did not seem to be taking the bait, with IRB Chairman Daniel Beiser stating that a reason cited by CDI for the closure of Arlington was the ‘antiquated and archaic laws in Illinois.’ The company noted the laws have not been changed in 30 years back then but now site the laws as a reason to stay open with off-track betting but no horse racing.
Board members had simply had enough of Churchill Downs Inc.’s actions and made the decision not to allow the company to operate.