Hawthorne Race Course, Illinois' oldest horse racing track poised to be first with casino

CICERO, Ill. (WLS) -- Illinois' oldest horse racing track is now poised to become the first track to have a casino.

On Thursday, Hawthorne Race Course cleared a critical hurdle with the Illinois Gaming Board while also being approved for sports betting.

The decision by the Illinois Gaming board breeding more than just goodwill at Hawthorne Race Course Thursday afternoon.

"It's a great day for Illinois horsemen, breeders, owners, trainers, everyone involved in this business, and thoroughbreds as well. It's a fantastic day," said Angie Coleman, a trainer.

By finding the course owners "suitable" the Gaming Board effectively gave them approval to build a casino.

The goal is to be up and running by the end of 2021.

"We'll have a full blown casino- I mean it's slots, it's table games, we'll have dining amenities featuring some of Chicago's, you know, well known culinary brands. Plus racing which no other casino has. So, we're really excited for the first racing casino," said Dakota Schultz, the Director of Communications at the Hawthorne Race Course.

Under Illinois Law about 18% of the casino's revenue will be go directly into horse racing purses, putting the struggling industry on track to be much more viable.

"Eighteen percent is huge, especially because right now at this point we've been self sustaining," Coleman said.

Hawthorne actually won the daily double Thursday, because the track was also approved for a Sports Betting license, just one more way to help showcase racing itself.

"Just think of all the new people that will come here, because of the casino, because of sports betting, because of the new complex, entertainment concept that will now see racing as well," Schultz said.

While the casino is a year and a half away, Hawthorne expects to be open for sports betting in time for the football season.
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