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US – Churchill Downs looking to sell Arlington Heights site and relocate racetrack

By - 24 February 2021

Churchill Downs Incorporated has launched a process to sell the 326 acres in Arlington Heights, Illinois, currently the home of Arlington International Racecourse, although the opportunity to run a racino or even the racetrack won’t be part of the deal.

Churchill Downs said it was committed to running Arlington’s 2021 race dates from April 30 – September 25. The company does not expect any sale of the Arlington site to close prior to the conclusion of Arlington’s 2021 race meet or that the conduct of the sale process will impact Arlington’s racing operations this year.

New laws came in in 2019 to allow the race tracks to become racinos but whilst Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney and Fairmount Park near St. Louis both added gaming Churchill Downs opted not to transform Arlington’s offering, focusing instead on Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, just a 20 minute drive away. It has just announced a further $87m investment at Rivers Casino Des Plaines with a 78,000-square-foot expansion taking the number of gaming positions to the maximum 2,000 allowed.

The suggestion that it could ‘relocate’ the racetrack has angered some horse owners.

Mike Campbell, President of the horse owners’ and trainers’ group, said: “The license is not Churchill’s to move. Moreover, the notion that a seasoned gaming operator would relocate a racing license away from a state of the art, modern racing facility near the heart of the Chicago metropolitan region to some yet-to-be-determined location is absurd.Churchill is just trying to obfuscate from the fact that it cares only about maximizing profit and will gladly sacrifice the spirit of Illinois law and the livelihood of working Illinoisans to serve its greed.”

Bill Carstanjen, CEO of CDI, said: “Arlington’s ideal location in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, together with direct access to downtown Chicago via an on-site Metra rail station, presents a unique redevelopment opportunity. We expect to see robust interest in the site and look forward to working with potential buyers, in collaboration with the Village of Arlington Heights, to transition this storied location to its next phase. In the meantime, we are very committed to pursuing the relocation of Arlington’s racing license to another community in the Chicagoland area or elsewhere in the state. We are exploring potential options with the State and other constituents and remain optimistic that we can find solutions that work for the State, local communities and the thousands of Illinoisans who make their living directly or indirectly from thoroughbred horse racing. We are committed to the Illinois thoroughbred racing industry and will consider all options in working toward opportunities for it to continue into the future.”

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