Casino and horse racing operator Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) announced in a press release on its website it initiated a procedure for the sale of Arlington International Racecourse – the oval and all 326 acres of land.
Arlington on the Block
The historic racetrack in Arlington Heights, Illinois, is marketed as a redevelopment opportunity by Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE), the real estate agency CDI contacted to find a suitable buyer for the property on its behalf.
“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.”Bill Carstanjen, CEO, CDI
The likelihood of a sale deal being completed prior to the conclusion of Arlington’s 2021 races is very low, CDI noted, confirming its commitment to run the racetrack’s race dates as scheduled from April 30 till September 25. But after that, the future of the 93-year-old racetrack remains obscure due to the fact that the property is advertised as a redevelopment site.
“…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.”Bill Carstanjen, CEO, CDI
CDI implied last summer the racecourse could be sold when CEO Carstanjen noted Arlington could serve a higher and better purpose, despite denying earlier reports the property was on the market for sale.
“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.”Bill Carstanjen, CEO, CDI
The Ultimate Stab in the Back
In truth, the future of the racecourse which opened in 1927 was decided when CDI refused to take advantage of the new state gambling legislation and build a casino on it, unlike the other two racetracks in Illinois, Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney and Fairmount Park near St. Louis, which gladly grabbed the new industry lifeline in the form of casino gaming and sports betting.
“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.”Bill Carstanjen, CEO, CDI
Horse owners and trainers at Arlington represented by the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association would question CDI’s commitment to the racing industry, considering the decision not to build a casino on-site as “the ultimate stab in the back”.
“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.”Mike Campbell, President, Horse Owners’ and Trainers’ Group
Instead of developing the racecourse in Arlington Heights, CDI elected to focus entirely on its other property in Illinois, Rivers Casino Des Plains, situated just 20 min drive away down I-90.
Co-owned with Rush Street Interactive (RSI), the gambling property proved to be the state’s most lucrative venue in 2020, having generated $321 million in revenue, twice as much as Arlington took in bets for the full 2019 and before paying out winners.
Less than a week ago, CDI announced it would expand Rivers Casino Des Plains to reach the maximum allowed 2,000 gambling positions, add a poker room, a new restaurant, and event space. According to the filing to the Illinois Gaming Board, the expansion would cost the company $87 million.