Illinois Racing Board Nixes Arlington’s OTB Licenses But Approves TwinSpires ADW

You win some, you lose some.

That’s how it went for Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) and its dormant track, Arlington Park, during Thursday’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Illinois Racing Board when the 10 commissioners deadlocked on a motion to permit Arlington to continue to operate off-track betting faclities, effectively killing the measure. CDI won a second vote by a 9-1 margin permitting TwinSpires, the company’s advance deposit wagering platform, to maintain its license and operate in the state in 2022.

The meeting was contentious at times, with Arlington’s Tony Petrillo and Hawthorne’s Tim Carey shouting over each other during discussions about ADW revenue.

Commissioner Alan Henry, a fierce critic of CDI over its decision to not race at Arlington in 2022 and sell the track property to the NFL’s Chicago Bears to build a football stadium, referred to the closing as a “flagrant obscenity,” saying that, “It’s now time for this board and this state to move on from Churchill Downs.”

This came after Chris Block, newly elected president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said the move to close Arlington has put the state’s Thoroughbred industry “on the brink of collapse.”

But the board apparently has a number of CDI loyalists who felt it was in the best interest of racing to permit Arlington Park to maintain its OTB network despite not operating a live race meetingin 2022  – in what the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association said was contrary to law.

Petrillo told the IRB that CDI remained committed to live racing in Illinois, saying the company was continuing to search for a property to build a new track to replace Arlington. When pressed by the board, he couldn’t offer any specifics. Two senior CDI officials, Bill Mudd and Brad Blackwell, joined the call, but they offered no specifics, either, saying they hoped to find a place to build a track and then get a casino license.

To several commissioners, that made no sense, inasmuch as CDI turned down an opportunity to add casino gambling to Arlington after enabling legislation was passed in 2019. Horsemen and CDI worked hand in hand for many years to get the legislation approved.

When it came time to vote on Arlington’s OTBs, five commissioners were in favor and five against; thus, the motion did not pass. The yes votes came from Leslie Breuer, Marcus Davis, Lydia Gray, Charles MacKelvie and Leslye Sandberg. Voting against the Arlington OTB licenses were board chairman Daniel Beiser, Beth Doria, Alan Henry, Benjamin Reyes and John Stephan.

Hawthorne is expected to pick up the slack from the Arlington OTBs that will not reopen, although under current law it is one OTB short of the maximum it can operate. Hawthorne is expected to seek legislative help that will permit them to expand their network.

For an advance deposit wagering company to be licensed in Illinois, it must have a contract with a state racetrack and the consent of the representative horsemen’s group.

TwinSpires had previously reached an agreement with Fanduel Sportsbook and Horse Racing, the downstate track formerly known as Fairmount Park. The Illinois Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association that represents horsemen at Fanduel/Fairmount withheld consent until just before Thursday’s meeting. The board could have approved the license without consent, if the commissioners felt the horsemen were being unreasonable, but the agreement made that a moot point after the Illinois HBPA gave their consent.

However, there was one last chance for the IRB to block TwinSpires’ operations in Illinois by denying the company an ADW license. After much debate, that license was approved by a 9-1 vote. Henry was the lone dissenter.

As commissioner Henry explained, the approval will hurt horsemen at Hawthorne because the bulk of purse revenue will remain at Fanduel/Fairmount although 75% of the ADW customers live in the Chicago area.

The post Illinois Racing Board Nixes Arlington’s OTB Licenses But Approves TwinSpires ADW appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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