Drama continues to surround the Arlington International Racecourse as Churchill Downs Inc., the company that owns the park, denies that the facility is for sale.
Reports indicate that two different groups are interested in the famed 92-year-old horse racing track in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
On Jan. 10, Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association President Mike Campbell told the Daily Herald of Chicago that two groups have shown interest in buying Arlington Park from Churchill Downs. Both entities were interested in adding a casino to the establishment. Campbell also stated the two groups wish to be unidentified.
During a monthly Illinois Racing Board meeting at the James R. Thompson Center in January, Arlington executives denied that any offers were made.
Illinois Racing Board Chairman Jeffrey Brincat asked if there is “anything pending anybody could construe as an offer,” according to a report by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Arlington International Racecourse President Tony Petrillo replied, “Not that I’m aware of.”
Talk of a potential sale comes as two major controversies surround the Arlington International Racecourse. Those controversies include the need to add a casino and the declining purse revenues.
Churchill Downs lobbied for the right to pursue a casino license to try and turn Arlington International into a racino for two decades.
After Churchill Downs purchased Rivers Casino in Des Plaines last March, however, the company stopped pursuing a casino for Arlington in August. They were authorized to do so under a comprehensive gambling expansion in Illinois. In addition, Churchill Downs has not committed to live racing beyond 2021.
Horse owners view this as a betrayal, stating that Churchill Downs is more concerned in protecting itself from casino competition against Rivers just 12 miles away.
Mike Campbell told the Sun-Times that if Churchill Downs isn’t going to use its casino license, then the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association would welcome a new owner that would.
Not far away, another race track, Hawthorne Race Course, has a partnership in place with PointsBet.
Horse owners were banking on Arlington International becoming a racino, believing that purses would grow with the additional gambling revenue. The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association is asking for up to $200,000 in daily purse money but claim that Churchill has offered as little as $130,000. In 2019, daily purses averaged $150,000 per day.
Arlington President Tony Petrillo said that they might be able to move the figure up to $142,000, but anything higher would be unreasonable in the industry's current economic environment.
As the contract dispute continues, horse racing in 2020 is up in the air for Arlington Park. Mike Campbell told the Sun-Times that it’s a 50-50 chance of any racing at all this year, adding that the ball is in Churchill Downs’ court.