Watch CBS News

Arlington Park Won't Apply For Gaming License; Could Track Close Altogether?

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (CBS) -- The Arlington International Racecourse is not applying for a gaming license – and it could even move somewhere else.

The reason has everything to do with taxes.

The racetrack in Arlington Heights is home to the Arlington Million Race. Churchill Downs owns it, and says the taxes in the new Illinois gaming law are just too high to make enough money off slot machines and table games.

"Notwithstanding our steadfast commitment to the Illinois Thoroughbred racing industry and despite the good faith intentions of everyone involved in the passage of the Illinois Gaming Act, the economic terms under which Arlington would be granted a casino gaming license do not provide an acceptable financial return and we cannot responsibly proceed," Churchill Downs chief executive officer Bill Carstanjen said in a news release.

Carstanjen said the Chicago market has seen a proliferation of video gambling terminals as it is, and now faces the possible introduction of five new gaming facilities and more gaming positions at existing casinos.

"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," Carstanjen said in the release. "It is with a heavy heart that we conclude that we can't make this work."

Churchill Downs said it will conduct horse racing in 2020 and 2021, and will also apply for a sports betting license while exploring longer-term alternatives.

"All options will be considered, including moving the racing license to another community in the Chicagoland area or elsewhere in the state," Churchill Downs said.

But a spokesman for Arlington said the track is not closing or moving.

"Arlington will not be closing in the foreseeable future," spokesman Grant LaGrange said by email. "It simply did not apply for a casino license."

Thoroughbred racing began at Arlington in 1927, and the track first played host to the Arlington Million in 1981. Arlington was destroyed by fire in July 1985 – with flames sweeping through the huge grandstand and leaving it a mass of charred rubble – but the racetrack still held the Arlington Million less than a month later using temporary bleachers. Arlington reopened in 1989.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.