Arlington Race Track

August 21, 2010 by staff 

Arlington Race Track, Arlington Park may look as healthy as ever on Saturday.

The Arlington Million is expected to attract about 30,000 spectators to the old track in suburban Chicago to take appropriate tent and maybe walk a few dollars more.

But behind the scenes, a different career is developing. In fact, it is a struggle – a struggle for financial survival.

Officials at Arlington Park and its parent company, Louisville, Kentucky-based Churchill Downs Inc. said that the future of the track and the industry is bleak unless alternative forms of gambling are approved.

“We have this world class facility,” said Arlington Park President Roy Arnold. “It would be absolutely tragic if we were not able to entertain the public and conduct racing here during the summer here in Chicago.”

The problem is this track world0class is only “marginally profitable,” says Arnold. And if you fall collection, “is simply not realistic to believe that shareholders will continue to support spending resources in Illinois with no prospect of a return.”

Track Planking 83-year-old is not a consideration at this time, nor is selling, but authorities say the game is necessary for the survival not only of the track, but racing as a whole in Illinois.

Last spring, the proposed legislation that would have legalized slot machines at racetracks in Illinois stalled amid opposition from the gambling boats and the anti-lobbying game, along with some loose ends to be tied. Arnold believes the industry has the votes in the state Assembly and may have enough in the state Senate for approval this fall after legislators reconvene.

But if not, how long can Arlington past?

“I do not know,” said corporate spokesman for Churchill Downs Liz Harris. “I do not think anyone has the answer.”

It’s track for sale?

“No,” she said.

Have you discussed?

Once again, she said no.

“It’s one of our properties,” said Harris. “Even something that is under consideration. It would be like saying that Churchill Downs is for sale? No”

Still, the equilibrium is unstable.

In June, Churchill Downs CEO Bob Evans said Arlington Park future was in doubt and that track even the company of the same name may have to cut the dates of the race unless alternative forms of gambling, such as slot machines allowed.

“You can not run on hope,” said Courier-Journal newspaper. “If we reach the point where they know” not run “is the best answer, so that’s the best answer. But we’re not from there, and hopefully not get there.”

Two of the four themes of the company – Casino & Calder Race Course near Miami and the exhibition center at the racetrack in New Orleans – offer other forms of gambling. Churchill Downs and Arlington Park do not.

Evans told the newspaper at the time that the company was planning an internal review of the four tracks to consider possible alternatives for the game in Arlington and Churchill Downs. However, Harris said it is “a process that always go on with all the properties we have.”

“That was not anything specific,” he added. “It was a non-specific, non-event. It is not something that will come to fruition with a specific answer.”

The answer that Arnold is seeking would come from the state. That would be the legalization of slots in place, which in turn would put more tracks of Illinois at equal footing with other states with alternative forms of play and help fund statewide construction and education .

“Who we really are in competition with other tracks in the United States,” said Arnold. “And we are competing for customers like any other business. And customers will choose our products based on. The quality and accessibility of quality is directly related to the caliber of racing, and that is fed by the purses.”

He noted that while Churchill Downs does not offer other forms of gambling, going to host the Kentucky Derby and provides sufficient financial support to get that track throughout the year.

Arlington, however, does not have a Triple Crown race, or slots.

What he has is a long history dating back to when Joe dykes Luxembourg rode to victory in the first race on October 13, 1927. It survived the Great Depression and World War II, and started receiving the first race in the world a million dollars – the Arlington Million – in 1981. Bill Shoemaker took John Henry to victory that year, but there have been difficulties on the road.

A July 1985 fire destroyed the grandstand, putting the future of the park in question. In the 1990s, Arnold said the state issued an accidental blow by allowing floating casinos, and wound closure Arlington for two years after the 1997 season before merging with Churchill Downs.

It is still on shaky ground, as well as other tracks across the state.

“We face the possibility of catastrophic if not allowed the same legislation that takes place in other states,” said the Association of Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen president Mike Campbell, who had horse racing at Arlington in early 1980 .

Arnold said some issues in Illinois will close if the bill does not pass, and even if Arlington would probably be the last in the state, is “not immune to that potential.”

A more immediate result could be further reductions on handbags and dates of the race.

The freshly cut track and almost 800,000 in prizes, but the millions and two grade 1 at stake were not attacked. And since he arrived in 2006 after a 30-year career in the Marine Corps, Arnold has been moving from Arlington to run five days a majority of four a week from May to September. It pays about 20 million bags and more than 91 dates, which he said “is not a bad number in relation to other tracks around the country.”

But if they had to cut and five million and 10 million dollars?

There would be no further cuts in the calendar, and racing throughout the year in the Chicago area could become a thing of the past.

“That means that if you are a racing official, if you are a sinner, if you are a boarding crew, if you are a food and beverage person, if you are an employee of mutual and work on the tracks , no employment and throughout the year, “said Arnold. “So now you’re looking at 30 days or 30 days or 60 days here is, perhaps, and you get into that space where you can continue to attract and retain talent? I think the answer is no.”

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