ITHA Statement: Illinois Horsemen 'Appalled By Churchill's Contempt For Live Racing' - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

ITHA Statement: Illinois Horsemen ‘Appalled By Churchill’s Contempt For Live Racing’

Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill.

The following statement is from the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association in response to a press release from Churchill Downs Inc. saying the company will attempt to sell Arlington Park for development and relocate its racing license elsewhere in Illinois.

Illinois thoroughbred owners and trainers appreciate the opportunity to race this year at Arlington Park, a world-class track, but are disappointed that Churchill Downs will renege on its longstanding promise to preserve and grow jobs in Illinois racing while also serving the best interests of Illinois taxpayers.

Churchill spent two decades lobbying Illinois lawmakers for the authority to develop a casino at Arlington. But since purchasing the majority stake in the nearby Rivers Casino, Churchill has all but abandoned any meaningful commitment to Illinois racing. Churchill abruptly reversed course, deep-sixed that Arlington development plan, and instead devoted itself to ensuring that Arlington could not become a gaming competitor to Rivers.

Churchill's anticompetitive behavior was so brazen, in fact, that its CEO publicly dismissed the prospect that racing might continue at Arlington under another owner and insisted the property would “have a higher and better purpose for something else.” Even in its statement today, Churchill obviously is disingenuous when it claims that it will move the Arlington racing license to elsewhere in Illinois.

“The license is not Churchill's to move,” said Mike Campbell, ITHA president. “Moreover, the notion that a seasoned gaming operator would relocate a racing license away from a state of the art, modern racing facility near the heart of the Chicago metropolitan region to some yet-to-be-determined location is absurd. 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.”

The Illinois gaming expansion law was intended to boost overnight purses and otherwise invigorate thoroughbred horse racing in this state for the purpose of creating jobs, sparking economic opportunity and diversifying the tax base for the state and local communities. Illinois owners and trainers are appalled by Churchill's contempt for live racing and the working men and women, from backstretch workers to breeders, who have devoted themselves to Illinois racing and who depend on racing opportunities and overnight purses to support themselves and their families.

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