Illinois, Let Racing Fail

It is such a crucial point that it bears repeating again and again and again: Without the corporate welfare euphemistically referred to as racino gaming, much of horseracing in the United States – including practically all of harness racing – would have vanished by now. One needs to look no further than Suffolk Downs, which after not receiving the Boston casino license, is done – shuttered, hopefully, for good.

In Illinois, a similar life and death struggle is playing out. A recent Craine’s Chicago Business article starts thus: “Chicago’s horse-racing circuit may be heading into its final furlong. Once hosts to one of the most popular sports in America, the area’s two thoroughbred tracks, Arlington International Racecourse and Hawthorne Race Course, today face a bleak future showcasing a niche product with a dwindling fan base.” Says Arlington’s chairman, [Illinois racing] “is just about ready to collapse.”

The article goes on to note that horse-betting in Illinois is down 42% over the past decade (and 33% nationally); the Illinois Board has already cut 15% of the tracks’ 2015 dates. The reason: Horseracing can no longer compete with 21st Century gambling – casinos and lotteries. Besides, they’ve already been subsidized – to no avail:

“Both tracks have been propped up for the past three years by an impact fee that redistributed nearly $75 million from Illinois casinos to be used on purses and track improvements. But that money has been exhausted, leaving the tracks to fund purses with only what people are betting.” Imagine that.

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Finally: “…the tracks are struggling to compete with venues in Florida, Louisiana, New York, Ohio and other states that allow ‘racinos’ – tracks that include casino gambling, which allows them to bolster purse sizes and attract better horses. That keeps them far healthier than Illinois tracks, even though slots make up most of their business, essentially turning them into casinos that happen to offer live racing. Complicating Arlington’s situation: Churchill Downs [Arlington’s parent company] gradually has been getting out of the horse-racing business and focusing on its more lucrative casino properties.”

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“Essentially turning them into casinos that happen to offer live racing.” Exactly. As for Churchill Downs wanting out of the racing business, what more needs to be said? Illinois politicians, don’t fall for the pity party, let racing go the way of every other obsolete industry in our nation’s history. Enough. Let it fail. Let it fail.

8 Comments

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  1. Can it be true? Oh God, let it be. Maybe it will fade out in the next 5 to 10 years. Things happen for a reason, no Triple Crown winner in how many years? If there is one in the near future it will only promote horse racing and we cannot afford that to happen. Also, the Tennessee Walking horses are about to win one for their lives by the banish of the “Big Lick”. It still needs a push by the law makers before it becomes real. The Year of the Horse may just prove to be that.

    • Jeff…AVOID GOING?!?! Your answer to those who know of the exploitation and abuse of the sentient creatures of your “sport” – the horses – is so telling of the racing industry’s attitude! Just pretend it doesn’t exist!! I DO “avoid going”…yet the maiming and death continues every day! Wow…your apathetic attitude simply enables the destruction of the living beings your “sport” cannot survive without. Reprehensible.

    • Jeff, if I “avoid going”, will the atrocities, committed against the horses, cease to exist? I would rather stick needles in my eyes then bet on ANY horse race. Therefore, I have avoided going for years and years, as a bettor, yet the maiming and killing of your industry’s horses continues. Racing is in a precipitous decline. I suggest that all the “good” people in racing find other work.

    • A lot of BAD horse breeders, trainers, and owners depend on racino welfare. They continue cashing in by ditching their drug filled horses to meat dealers so children can eat them. You say ” Help the industry” Lol

  2. Interest in racing is fading fast. The hardcore bettors who study the Racing Form and spend time handicapping are a dying breed. They will not be replaced in any meaningful numbers. Racing will continue to retract and fade into oblivion over the years. It will not suddenly or quickly cease which would result in thousands of horses in Limbo, as some have predicted. With the gradual decline, breeding numbers will fall and those in the business will open their eyes to the “writing on the wall”.

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