Craig Duchossois: Blame Politicians, Not Churchill Downs For Arlington Park's Demise - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Craig Duchossois: Blame Politicians, Not Churchill Downs For Arlington Park’s Demise

Craig Duchossois (left) during a presentation at Arlington Park

Craig Duchossois, son of former Arlington Park owner Richard Duchossois, said Illinois politicians are to blame for the pending demise of the suburban Chicago racetrack owned by publicly traded Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI).

In an interview with the Daily Herald, Duchossois said the 2019 legislation that gave Illinois racetracks the right to operate a casino came “too late” for Arlington Park. By the time the law passed, CDI already had purchased an interest in the Rivers Casino, about 10 miles away from Arlington Park. It now is the casino's majority owner.

Illinois horsemen were stunned when CDI officials announced months after the bill was signed into law that they would not seek a license to operate a casino at Arlington Park. CDI's chief executive officer, Bill Carstanjen, announced plans to sell the property last year and began accepting bids earlier this year. Among the interested parties are the NFL's Chicago Bears. At least one group is interested in keeping racing alive at Arlington by developing a portion of the property but maintaining the track, grandstand and stabling.

Arlington Park did not apply for 2022 racing dates.

“If they (Illinois lawmakers) would've gotten their head out of the sand and done it five or 10 years earlier, whole different ballgame,” Duchossois said. “Who knows what would have happened then. But at least we would've been given the chance to compete fairly, and they didn't allow that. And now they're saying Churchill is at fault? That just doesn't make any sense.”

Duchossois, like his father a former member of the CDI board of directors, told the Daily Herald discussions about closing Arlington and developing the property came up a number of years ago.

Arlington merged with CDI in 2000, making the Duchossois family the largest single shareholder in the company whose flagship racetrack, Churchill Downs, and its headquarters are located in Louisville, Ky. Churchill Downs also owns Fair Grounds in Louisiana and Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania (both tracks also have casinos) but ceased racing operations at Calder in Florida (replacing it with jai alai to maintain a casino license) and sold Hollywood Park in California to a land development company that eventually closed the track and built a football stadium there.

In February 2021, CDI repurchased one million of the three million shares reportedly held by The Duchossois Group. The private transaction was valued at $193.9 million.

Craig Duchossois was interviewed by the Daily Herald on the afternoon of the track's signature event, formerly known as Arlington Million Day. The  Arlington Million, inaugurated in 1981, had its named changed to the Mr. D. Stakes to honor Richard Duchossois, while the prize money was slashed from $1 million to $600,000. Duchossois, 99 years old, did not attend.

Read more at the Daily Herald

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