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I don’t think this one’s on the GA

Friday, Aug 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sun-Times editorial about the decision by Churchill Downs to shutter the Arlington track and not apply for a racino license

But nobody should be surprised. This is exactly the sort of thing that can happen when the state Legislature moves awfully darn fast on a big bill that has many moving parts. […]

For years, Arlington had sought a racino to shore up the racetrack’s bottom line, so its ownership’s announcement that it is no longer interested in one surprised pretty much everybody, beginning with Gov. J.B. Pritzker. […]

Churchill Downs says the gambling bill’s high taxes on Arlington and massive expansion of new gambling competition mean a new racino at Arlington would be “untenable” financially, rather than a lifeline. CEO Bill Carstanjen blames the requirement that part of casino earnings go to racing purses — something Arlington has, in fact, been clamoring to do for years.

Churchill Downs didn’t work against the bill. It was also at the table the whole time. As the editorial alludes to, it’s been clamoring for a racino ever since the Elgin casino opened 25 years ago so that it could share some of the gaming money with racehorse owners. Without that cut for the horse owners, the whole shebang falls apart and everyone knows it. Tracks don’t just get a racino handed to them without a requirement to use some of the money to build up the horse racing part of the equation.

So, how can the GA be blamed for giving Churchill Downs what it always said it wanted and didn’t appear to oppose?


  1. - DuPage Saint - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 12:07 pm:

    Arlington is the epitome of corporate welfare. They beg for state money every year. The state bailed them out after it burned down then several years later they shut it down because they wanted even more. This I don’t know but I bet it is probably paying agricultural or open space real estate taxes
    Now the company that owns it already has a high grossing casino wants to get another one in Waukegan and wants more for Arlington. Let them shut it down and don’t give them anything else

  2. - Roman - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 12:13 pm:

    The Sun-Times ed board usually exhibits a solid understanding of what happens in Springfield. Not here.

    This has nothing to do with the gaming bill being “rushed.” The framework for the overall gaming expansion has changed little since it was vetoed twice by Quinn earlier this decade.

    This all about Arlington’s new corporate ownership structure as a casino company that no longer prioritizes running horses races. As Rich pointed out yesterday (subscribers know more) if Arlington was still owned by just Dick Duchossois and a few of his horse-loving pals, they would be doing backflips over this legislation.

  3. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 12:14 pm:

    In euchre, we call this “sandbagging,” intentionally passing on the bid or misrepresenting your hand so that you can try to euchre your opponent.

    It’s not “cheating”, but it’s not exactly kosher either. You’re not gonna get stabbed, but your definitely gonna get some stares, and no one is buying you any drinks after the game.

  4. - the Patriot - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 12:14 pm:

    The theme this week is in a quest for good headlines under the aucpice of being progressive, we did not pass very good legislation. Yea the Governor got his headlines, but as were are seeing, much of this was an idea based on fluff, with no real concept on how to make it work as promised.

  5. - Chicagonk - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 12:15 pm:

    The GA should have seen this coming as soon as Neil Bluhm and Churchill Downs bought Arlington in March. The state needs to force Churchill Downs and Neil Bluhm to sell Arlington.

  6. - Annonin' - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 12:23 pm:

    Time for someone to call the AP bluff. Same goes need to change Chicago casino tax. One person stand apply for both and watch the action begin

  7. - SSL - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 12:30 pm:

    Possible that Churchill Downs changed strategy over the years as Illinois was not in a hurry to expand gambling. I don’t think this is a total bluff. They’re prepared to abandon Arlington Park. Perhaps that’s been inevitable for years, but still sad to see it go. I can see a a beautiful planned community there within walking distance to Metra. Taxes will get collected one way or the other.

  8. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 12:32 pm:

    ===Possible that Churchill Downs changed strategy over the years===

    If they did, they didn’t appear to tell anyone in Spfld.

  9. - Nagidam - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 12:41 pm:


    ===This all about Arlington’s new corporate ownership structure as a casino company that no longer prioritizes running horses races.===

    This really is all you need to know about the situation as it relates to the present.

    The question for the future is where do they want to move their prized racetrack too? Hard to go back to the GA for another ask but in the end the Horseman groups and unions will be on board and Churchill/Bluhm know they have 4 Aces.

  10. - Say What? - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 12:44 pm:

    Another factor that few like to acknowledge. . . . . .horse racing is a relic from a bygone era that has been in steady decline for 75 years. The high water mark was pre-television. Let that wash over you. Long live Seabiscut . . . .

  11. - Annonin' - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 1:10 pm:

    AP did not tell anyone in May when the bill was being finalized…call the bluff

  12. - Lurker - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 1:52 pm:

    ==In euchre, we call this “sandbagging,” ==

    In what euchre games are you playing where you might get stabbed!!? Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the point you are making. Trying to imagine a high stakes, life or death euchre game, however, has me doubled over in laughter. Maybe I just don’t get around enough…

  13. - XDNR - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 2:09 pm:

    A friend of mine who was in the horse racing industry for many years saw this coming when Churchill Downs became the majority owner of the Rivers Casino in DesPlaines, just 20 minutes from Arlington, as with the gambling expansion the close competition obviously didn’t make business sense. Unfortunately, this will probably be the death knell of thoroughbred horse racing in Illinois.

  14. - jimk849 - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 2:19 pm:

    I hope the GA can craft something that says if racetracks don’t take the casino license they don’t get the sports gambling license. I think Il. Horsemen and women have been double-crossed,imho

  15. - northsider (the original) - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 2:47 pm:

    This is a bluff that needs to be called.
    Arlington/Churchill and Neil Bluhm had more lobbyists and influencers working the gaming bill than any other stakeholder.
    They got what they wanted.
    No do-over.

  16. - Been There - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 3:11 pm:

    === Unfortunately, this will probably be the death knell of thoroughbred horse racing in Illinois.===

    I don’t know about that. Hawthorne might not be the nicest looking track (by far) but their purses should go pretty high. Without Arlington those harness horsemen better hope the south suburban track gets built quickly. Hawthorne will definitely grab thoroughbred dates in the summer over harness.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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