Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights, Illinois, will not apply for a casino gaming license.
The racecourse’s parent company, Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI), made the announcement via press release on Wednesday. The news comes as a shock to some because, for a decade, the Arlington International Racecourse has lobbied the state of Illinois for the right to operate casino gaming.
Casino gaming in Chicago was legalized earlier this year, but a recent study conducted by Union Gaming Analytics revealed that casino gambling is not realistic in Chicago because of “onerous tax and fee structures.”
Similarly, CDI cited the tax structure of the law as the reason they decided to not move forward with the casino gaming license.
Churchill CEO Bill Carstanjen explained the company's position in the press release. Carstanjen acknowledged the good intentions of everyone involved in passing the Illinois Gaming Act, and then expounded on why they are not moving forward.
“Arlington would enter this market with an effective tax rate that would be approximately 17.5%-20% higher than the existing Chicagoland casinos due to contributions to the Thoroughbred purse account.
“This disadvantage in a hyper-competitive gaming market, coupled with substantial licensing and reconciliation fees and new, unviable horse racing requirements in the Illinois Gaming Act, makes construction of a casino at Arlington financially untenable. It is with a heavy heart that we conclude that we can't make this work.”
The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (ITHA) criticized CDI’s decision in its own press release.
"We are stunned and profoundly disappointed by the decision not to pursue supplemental gaming at Arlington Park. For more than a decade, Arlington has lobbied Illinois governors and legislators for permission to conduct gaming to boost revenue and generate funds to significantly improve the quality of horsemen's purses.
"This year, Arlington elevated its push by insisting the law include table games. Yet now that it is finally poised to move forward, Arlington's parent company has astoundingly declined to apply for the license necessary to operate a racino.”
The ITHA concluded by “enthusiastically” applauding Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney and Fairmount Park in Collinsville for moving forward with their casino gaming licenses.
In CDI’s official statement, the company revealed that Arlington will continue to conduct horse racing in 2020 and 2021 and will also pursue a sports betting license while exploring long-term alternatives.
CDI stated that they are considering all options, like moving the racing license to another community in the Chicagoland area or to another location in the state.
CDI concluded its statement by saying that the company remains heavily invested in the state. CDI owns approximately 61% of the Rivers Casino in Des Plains, Illinois, and has “applied to add up to 800 new gaming positions and will expand its facility, which will provide incremental tax revenue to the state and job opportunities for its citizens.”