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Two racetracks will likely close

Friday, Oct 2, 2015

* I didn’t get to this earlier in the week, but let’s try now. Amanda Vinicky

Illinois’ racing board is taking a gamble in an attempt to save the beleaguered industry. Two historic Illinois tracks will hold no races next year, a decision that could lead to their permanent closure.

The decision by Illinois’ 11-member racing board was unanimous: no horses will run at Balmoral and Maywood parks in 2016.

“We can’t sit out a year and survive; we’ll have to default on our lease and that’ll be the end of it,” said Duke Johnston, a partial owner of the tracks. […]

The board has given it and the Hawthorne park all Chicago-area races. The idea is that consolidating races - and therefore expenses and prizes - will make the remaining tracks more competitive.

“It raises purses at both entities, which will attract more horses, which will result in larger field size, which results in more wagering which results in more purses. It’s circular,” Arlington racecourse General Manager Tony Petrillo said.

* More

After unsuccessfully fighting to eliminate Hawthorne’s spring thoroughbred meeting for the last four years Arlington International Racecourse formed an alliance with its former adversary and the tracks made a joint presentation.

Hawthorne agreed to give Arlington a portion of the host track money it receives from out-of-state simulcasts to use to significantly bolster purses at its summer thoroughbred meeting. In return, Arlington supported Hawthorne’s requests for the two harness meetings and its usual spring and fall thoroughbred meetings.

The tracks also have promised to promote one another.

Arlington wins again.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Coach - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 11:26 am:

    It is becoming evident that our current Governor doesn’t care about saving jobs because if he did the first thing he would have done was to get the Gambling bill in place to save the horse racing industry and all the jobs that go along with it! The owners, trainers, drivers, breeders,tellers, concession people, vets, backstretch people, feed producers, all the way down to janitors and program sellers, etc.! It might not be much but to those people it is a job! Plus I’m sure the State could use the extra revenue!

  2. - Mama - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 11:27 am:

    How many years has Illinois race-tracks been operating?

  3. - TT - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 11:28 am:

    Sad for those of us who still enjoy horse racing, but necessary. Racing just isn’t popular enough to sustain four tracks in the Chicago area.

  4. - Georg Sande - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 11:39 am:

    Right Coach, it’s clearly Rauner’s fault. A massive Gaming expansion bill is something he clearly could have accomplished this year with the legislative assistance and goodwill of the Speaker … not. Are you seriously delusional?

  5. - Shoe Searer - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 11:43 am:

    ==Racing just isn’t popular enough to sustain four tracks in the Chicago area.==


    Should have happened sooner had it not been for the silly arrangement of giving them subsidies from the riverboats. Allowing racinos would have done nothing to increase the popularity of horse racing, but instead would have turned these into video gaming sites that featute some horses from time to time, or never.

  6. - south side - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 11:43 am:

    Fewer days. Cards reduced to 8 races. Small purses. I hear they even charge for picnic tables on the grass. Illinois racing has been on full life support for years. It now has committed the greatest of all sins, it is uninteresting. Next summer if I get the horse racing urge, I’ll drive to Saratoga.

  7. - Southside Markie - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 11:48 am:

    The backside workers at the harness tracks are pre-dominantly African-Americans (as opposed to those at the thoroughbreds who are Latinos). It will be interesting to see if/how the legislature’s Black Caucus will respond.

  8. - Coach - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 11:56 am:

    Georg Sande, I’m not into name calling just saying It looked like the votes were there from the Legislators to pass it just needed a Governor to pass it but he wanted a budget passed first which is tied to getting his agenda passed before a budget could be passed. so it comes back to the Governor wanting his personal agenda approved before the budget is discussed. I’m not a Democrat so don’t go there either! I just wished we had someone like Edgar at the top position who understands that you can’t change or get everything you want over night or completed in four years. The only way this budget will be resolved is not with the two stubborn people we have leading in Rauner & Madigan but rather with essential services that the State requires to operate.

  9. - West Side Willie - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 12:00 pm:

    Sad but true. If you are looking for top notch racing you play the New York tracks, Belmont, Acqueduct, or Saratoga. The money should stay here in Illinois but we have nothing to offer. Playing Hawthorne can be painful.

  10. - NoGifts - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 12:18 pm:

    We’ve already said goodbye to fox tossing, rat and bear baiting, quoits and skittles. Say goodbye to another Victorian pastime.

  11. - jerry 101 - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 12:23 pm:

    No one cares about horse racing anymore.

    It’s no one’s fault but the general public. Close them all, and redevelop the land.

  12. - Anyone Remember - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 12:24 pm:

    NoGifts -
    Congrats with making a point in a colorful way!

  13. - Because I said so... - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 12:35 pm:

    ===Racing just isn’t popular enough to sustain four tracks in the Chicago area.==


    Should have happened sooner had it not been for the silly arrangement of giving them subsidies from the riverboats. Allowing racinos would have done nothing to increase the popularity of horse racing, but instead would have turned these into video gaming sites that featute some horses from time to time, or never.=

    Why isn’t horse racing as popular as it used to be? Because the out of state tracks have had slots for years and they draw larger crowds and have bigger purses. For years the top drivers and trainers have been fleeing Illinois for more money elsewhere and who can blame them. I bet if you talked to these folks they’d tell you they didn’t want to leave but it was a financial necessity. If one of the two gaming bills that passed the General Assembly got signed, the Illinois horse racing industry wouldn’t be in the sad shape its in.
    It’s terrible to see all these people lose their jobs.

  14. - DE - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 12:50 pm:

    I don’t go to or enjoy the Bears, Bulls, Sox or Cubs, but I see them receiving public fund concessions-subsidies for stadium repairs, renovations, etc, when they are all in pretty good financial shape. I like horse racing and going to the track. I know there are fewer people like me, and the industry is in trouble, but I just don’t understand how Joe’s Tavern and Betty’s Beauty Parlor can have slot machines, but a horse racetrack ‘gambling’ facility can’t. And I don’t see the state giving subsidies for their scoreboards/jumbotrons. If you think it is a dying industry, it is not. Look at the recent Keeneland yearling sale. It is dying an unnatural death in Illinois.

  15. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 12:57 pm:

    @Shoe Searer nails it. Racing’s in decline, and even allowing OTB has not rescued the industry.

    Last week’s casinomall Gaming Board hearing showed that any declining mall, bar, café, racetrack, would convert into a casinomall, videobar, gamingcafe or racino if allowed.

  16. - Different Strokes - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 1:00 pm:

    “Say goodbye to another Victorian pastime…”

    Like bicycling and baseball?

    The purses for harness races have been pathetic. The thoroughbreds have been doing somewhat better, but cost cutting measures are evident (fewer races, smaller fields of entries, fewer dates for live racing, etc.).

    Think back to Blagojevich. One of his alleged misdeeds was trying to shakedown the owners of Balmoral and Maywood Parks for a “campaign contribution.” No wrongdoing was alleged on the part of the owners. The legislature approved bills to permit slots at horse racing tracks (which is the norm in most of the country), but Quinn vetoed the bills.

  17. - Different Strokes - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 1:03 pm:

    By the way, general admission at Hawthorne is $2.00 and there is free parking available.

    All of the fancy prices and additional fees are part of the Arlington experience.

  18. - Rich Miller - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 1:06 pm:

    ===A massive Gaming expansion bill is something he clearly could have accomplished this year with the legislative assistance and goodwill of the Speaker===

    He never lifted a finger on that topic, so we’ll never know.

    But, in my experience, if a governor really wants a gaming bill, he’ll get it.

  19. - anon - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 1:13 pm:

    Lots of agri-business jobs associated with Illinois horse racing. Worth preserving the industry based on a pragmatic calculation of jobs, economic activity, and tax revenue. Other states supplement purses — the economic engine that drives the industry — through electromic gaming (i.e., slots at tracks). Absent gaming expansion very soon, these jobs and taxes will be largely gone, as horse owners and trainers and breeders leave Illinois for better opporunities in other states. The State of Illinois and the City of Chicago could also use the revenue.

  20. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 1:18 pm:

    Forcing casinos to pay the tracks was a mistake.

    Should Rich also pay the Sun Times, or Politico pay the Washington Post?

    ==The Times They Are A Changin’==

  21. - Wordslinger - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 2:01 pm:

    Anyone recall seeing any advertising or promotions by any of the tracks recently?

    The casinos advertise. The movies. The sports teams.

  22. - Jockey - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 2:49 pm:

    Horse racing is dying a deliberate death in IL; not everywhere else:

  23. - Enviro - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 2:54 pm:

    Consolidation of the race tracks makes good business sense.

  24. - vibes - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 3:00 pm:

    Yikes! Maywood’s last night is tonight

    >>2015 Live Racing Schedule:
    January 29th - October 2nd
    Thursday and Friday Post Time 7:30 PM

  25. - MasterPiece - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 3:05 pm:

    No!!! Not quoits!!!

  26. - Southside Markie - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 3:09 pm:

    Not only lots of agri-business jobs will be lost. Lots of very poor backstretch workers will lose their jobs and their entire lifestyles. These folks are usually unskilled laborers working at low wage jobs. They live with their families on the backstretch of the track. If the tracks close, they will be unemployed and homeless.

  27. - Different Strokes - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 3:35 pm:

    “Anyone recall seeing any advertising or promotions by any of the tracks recently?”

    A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y ! Hawthorne opened its Fall Meet today and it has been promoting its night racing event (”Rocktoberfest”) tomorrow heavily.

    The Tribune has largely abandoned coverage of horse racing, so horse players have to read the Sun-Times.

  28. - Robert the Bruce - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 3:58 pm:

    Not the state’s job to prop up dying industries.

  29. - Blue dog dem - Friday, Oct 2, 15 @ 4:19 pm:

    Robert the Bruce–why can’t we prop up dying industries? We prop up ConAgra,we still subsidize extension advisers(and the Internet has been aroun awhile), and lastly didn’t we give the Cubs some help”"”"

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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