View From The Eighth Pole: Petrillo Deserves Chutzpah Award For Gaslighting Of Illinois Racing Board

We may have to dust off the old Paulick Report Chutzpah Award in the wake of Arlington Park executive Tony Petrillo’s gaslighting of the Illinois Racing Board.

Appearing via video before the regulatory agency during a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, Nov. 18. Petrillo lobbied to keep Arlington Park’s diminishing number of OTBs operating in 2022 despite the decision by the suburban Chicago racetrack’s parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., to end racing there and sell the property to the NFL’s Chicago Bears for construction of a new football stadium.

Arlington Park ran its final race on Sept. 25 after deciding earlier not to seek racing dates in 2022, saying the property was being put up for sale. Four days after the 2021 meet ended, Churchill Downs announced a deal to sell Arlington Park to the Bears for $197.2 million. The company rejected a bid from a group led by former Arlington Park president Roy Arnold to purchase the property, continue racing and develop a portion of the land.

There were two agenda items related to Arlington and CDI continuing to profit off Thoroughbred racing through the continued operation of its Trackside OTB in a separate building on the south end of the Arlington Park property and five other OTBs in the state. CDI also wants its advance deposit wagering brand, TwinSpires, to keep operating in Illinois, though it must have a contract with both a racetrack and horsemen’s organization and currently does not have an agreement with horsemen, either at Hawthorne and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association or FanDuel Fairmount Park and the Illinois Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Attorneys for Hawthorne racetrack and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association argued that Arlington should not be eligible for what the racing law refers ti as “inter-track” wagering because Arlington is no longer an operating racetrack and is not licensed for 2022. Commissioner Alan Henry said the question comes down to legislative intent, the best long-term interests of the racing industry and common sense. Henry said Churchill wanting to profit off OTBs is like the farm that sells its prized Holstein to someone and then wants the profits from the milk it produces.

Counsel for the Illinois Racing Board advised the commissioners that, in his opinion, Arlington Park could be awarded the license under the law.

Hawthorne said it was willing to take over operations in some of the regions where Arlington currently has OTBs, though it is restricted to 16 OTB locations and already has 15 open.

The gaslighting began when Petrillo said Churchill Downs Inc. is committed to live racing in Illinois – less than two months after selling the state’s signature racetrack for development. (In his next breath, Petrillo said racetracks can not be profitable on their own.)

“We maintain an interest in racing and pursuing other opportunities to continue live racing within the state,” Petrillo said. “At this time, we don’t have any location that we could identify but we continually pursue this each day for another location.”

Petrillo started shedding what looked on my computer screen like crocodile tears.

“These (OTBs) are very important because they provide jobs, they’re going to provide a number of jobs across each of these geographical areas to people to support their families. Especially in these economic times it’s very important for these jobs to be maintained.”

Commissioner Beth Doria called Petrillo out for the audacious comment.

“Mr. Petrillo, I heard you reference the loss of jobs several times,” Doria said. “But I’m just wondering where that concern was when you actually closed the racetrack itself.”

Another commissioner asked Petrillo if he felt the closing of Arlington caused “dramatic damage” for the Illinois racing industry.

“Any business closing in any part of the industry has an impact that could be construed as negative,” Petrillo said in a comment that can only be construed as tone deaf by the thousands of lives affected by the closing of Arlington Park.

The Illinois Racing Board voted to delay a decision on Arlington Park’s request until the Dec. 16 meeting. Let’s hope the board does the right thing and denies the OTB licenses next month and allows Hawthorne to take them over. If CDI and Arlington opt to get back in racing with the construction of a new track, OTBs should be part of their operation. Until such time, they are no longer in the racing business in Illinois.

That’s my view from the eighth pole.

The post View From The Eighth Pole: Petrillo Deserves Chutzpah Award For Gaslighting Of Illinois Racing Board appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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