Continuing their campaign to sabotage future gaming opportunities at Arlington Park, track executives are refusing to apply with the Illinois Racing Board for race dates in 2022.
Arlington officials are well aware of interest from other parties in continuing racing at the state’s flagship racing facility, as at least one group of investors has publicly disclosed its plan to purchase Arlington and continue live racing there. But if Arlington does not apply for 2022 dates by tomorrow, thereby preserving an avenue for a future owner of the track to pursue racing, then any new owner of the track will not have the option of racing there next year.
Under Illinois law, a dates application for the next year must be filed by Aug. 1. With Aug. 1 falling on a Sunday this year, the deadline moves up to Friday, July 30 – the last IRB business day before Aug. 1.
“Churchill Downs is writing the book on bad faith, so this latest move is disappointing but not surprising,” said Mike Campbell, president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
Since 2018, when it announced its intent to purchase its ownership interest in Rivers Casino, Arlington owner Churchill has devoted itself to eliminating the threat of competition that gaming at Arlington might pose to nearby Rivers. Churchill refused to apply for a license to develop Arlington as a racino, even though its lobbyists had spent two decades lobbying Illinois lawmakers for that privilege, and then insisted it would sell the track to another entity that would use the property for a purpose “higher and better” than horse racing.
In February, Arlington Heights Mayor Thomas Hayes told ABC7/WLS-TV in Chicago: “I think it’s clear why [Churchill] did not choose to open a casino at the racetrack property – because it would directly compete with their majority interest in the Rivers Casino.”
ITHA President Campbell added: “Churchill’s commitment to stopping any gaming at Arlington from competing with Rivers is the worst kept secret in Illinois. Company executives have practically contorted themselves to explain and justify their anti-competitive behavior while carefully avoiding any acknowledgment that their true motive appears to be eliminating the threat of competition from Arlington.”
With at least one group of reputable and credible investors poised to purchase Arlington to continue horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering – the highest and best purpose, without question, for one of the finest racing venues in North America – Arlington President Tony Petrillo told a local media outlet that Arlington has a racing dates application in its possession but probably will not file it.
“It’s clear that Churchill Downs cares exclusively about corporate profit and that all other considerations are incidental,” Campbell said. “All we can do in this case is hope that Churchill will recognize the utility, for the sake of its interest in selling Arlington Park to the most capable bidder, of filing the dates application to preserve the possibility of future racing at the track.”