They're off and running at Hawthorne Wednesday. Race fans are there watching and wagering. But as of now, if they choose, they can watch and wager on live horse races from the comfort of their own homes by way of computer or even cell phone.
It's called Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW). The Illinois Racing Board has approved three online wagering firms to handle the betting. Participants sign up with credit cards, pick their ponies in races all over the country, and then watch online to see if they win. It's betting convenience.
"If you have just one race for the day and don't want to go to the track, you can go to your computer," said Dan Marzano, horse racing fan.
"It benefits the state in terms of tax dollars. It benefits the horsemen in terms of our agreements with them and it benefits the racetracks in terms of a live handle and people betting on racing which hopefully will bring them to the live product," said Tim Carey, president Hawthorne Race Track.
The state's horse racing industry has long argued that on-line wagering has been going on anyway, so why not legalize it - which is what the General Assembly did earlier this year. Betting online is not expected to create a windfall for the tracks, but they're not sneezing at it either especially at a time when business and all gaming revenue is down.
"A person who can least afford it can lose everything in a heart beat at one of the machines or on-line betting," said the Rev. Eugene Winkler, Gaming Board member.
Gambling opponents like Gene Winkler see online wagering and the state's video poker plan as two more big steps down a slippery slope.
More addictive gamblers, more people who are losing money they can't afford to lose, and most of all, legislators who lack the courage to do their jobs," said Rev. Winkler.
The industry argues that there are sufficient protections, and that - for the bettor - technology ought not be ignored.
"Technology is here. It's gonna be here. I don't see how you can stop that," said Carey.
The horse racing industry is not now part of the state's plan for video poker, but it wants to be. Legislators in Springfield for the fall veto session are being pitched on the idea of putting video gaming at the horse tracks. The theory is that'd mean more money for the state gaming board to regulate what amounts to a huge new industry of legalized video poker.