What Illinois Racino Proposal Could Mean For Gaming Options

What Illinois Racino Proposal Could Mean For Gaming Options
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

Residents of the far southern reaches of the Chicago metroplex could soon add a racino – a horse track with a casino – to its existing gaming options if the state legislature has its way.

Under Senate Bill 1732, Richton Park would be granted the rights to build out a $300 million racino project that would tack a casino onto the existing horse racing facility.

As part of the legislation, Stickney’s Hawthorne Race Course would be stripped of the facility’s ability to veto another racino being constructed, according to a report from The Chicago Tribune.

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Horse Track Veto Rights

Under the 2019 gambling expansion bill that paved the way for mobile and retail Illinois sports betting (along with six casinos across the state), horse tracks were granted the right to veto any additional developments within 35 miles that could jeopardize their market share.

To overcome a future veto from the Stickney facility (roughly 26 miles north of Richton Park), state Senate members proposed eliminating the course’s ability to use such an option.

The Richton Park facility would sit on an 80-acre plot of land abutting Interstate 57, with longtime local real estate developer Drew Daniels serving as the point person on the project. Richton Park sits about 30 miles south of Guaranteed Rate Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox.

To grease the tracks on getting the Southland project finished, Daniels penned a letter to the Illinois Gaming Board and state legislature, warning that any failure to build a racino in Richton Park could set the area back compared to its neighbors.

“We urge the Illinois Gaming Board and the Illinois General Assembly to consider the loss of revenue and endless delays that the current Act permits,” Daniels’ letter said, per the Tribune, “and promote an alternative that allows this critical and meaningful revenue to commence without further inexplicable impedance.”

Where Richton Park Project Stands in Senate

The future of SB-1732 in Springfield rests in the upper chamber’s ability to get the legislation through the Senate before the end of the month. As of Friday morning, the bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Patrick Joyce, has not been voted on by any of the Senate’s committees.

As proof of interest in gaming statewide, Illinois sportsbook apps took more than $1 billion in bets in January alone, setting a state record.

The state Senate has until its self-imposed deadline of March 31 to get SB-1732 out of committee and onto the chamber’s floor for a vote.

Luckily for Daniels and others involved in the Richton Park development, the Illinois legislature is in session through May 19, giving the bill some time if it can clear the March 31 committee deadline.

No Racinos Built Yet

Though racinos were legalized in Illinois’ 2019 gambling expansion bill, no facilities have been built. Neighboring Indiana has two such facilities.

The state legislature is also considering a proposal to legalize Illinois online casinos.

Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar summed up the state’s racino conundrum in an interview with the Tribune, saying the state’s attempts to revive horse racing in Illinois have gone by the wayside.

“The casino bill could have revived Illinois racing, but nothing happened,” Edgar said. “We’re letting a great opportunity slip through our fingers.”

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Christopher Boan is a lead writer at IllinoisBet.com specializing in covering state issues. He covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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