Racing Board approves Arlington racing dates despite no casino license

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With its future hanging in the balance down the stretch, Arlington Park pulls out a win with the Illinois Racing Board.

The board threatened to not allow racing next year after Arlington chose not to pursue a casino license, which many believe could help save horse racing in Illinois. Ultimately the board voted to keep the top track in the Midwest in business.

"Imagine if you take out your star player, it doesn't mean the rest of the team can't pick up but it's gonna be harder to win games," said Illinois Racing Board Chair, Jeff Brincat.

Arlington lobbied to have casino games at the track for years, but after the legislature approved it earlier this year, they decided against competing with nearby Rivers Casino. Both Arlington Park and Rivers Casino are owned by Churchill Downs.

"I think what Arlington is looking for is a level playing field," said Arlington Chairman emeritus, Dick Duchossois. "We don't have that now."

Critics said they expect casinos to be the salvation for the horse racing industry, but Arlington is not playing along.

"I'm deeply disappointed with this agency," said Mike Campbell with the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "They sent a message, but it wasn't loud enough or clear enough."

The board also granted racing dates at Hawthorne Racecourse, which did apply for a casino license.

"They can do whatever they want to do for their business reasons," said Tim Casey with Hawthorne Race Course. "Hawthorne is extremely excited about going forward."

While the vote guarantees racing at Arlington next year, the track's long term future is still up in the air. When asked whether that plan to sell the track the CEO declined to answer.
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