Redevelopment opportunity? Churchill Downs won’t apply for casino license at Arlington Park

The 323-acre site is prime for redevelopment, though will remain a racetrack until 2021

TRD CHICAGO /
Sep.September 03, 2019 01:00 PM
Churchill Downs Inc. CEO William C. Carstanjen and Arlington Park racetrack

Churchill Downs Inc. CEO William C. Carstanjen and Arlington Park racetrack

For years, Churchill Downs Inc. said that the historic Arlington Park racetrack would need slot machines and table games to survive. But when the long-awaited legislation materialized in late June, it was not quite what Churchill Downs wanted.

Now, the company has decided not to seek that casino license for the historic Arlington Park racetrack, it said in a release last week.

The 323-acre site would be prime for redevelopment, but the village has not started drafting those plans, hoping the track will survive, according to the Daily Herald.

Other large campuses have been repurposed as offices, multifamily housing, retail, restaurants, and hotels. The Boler Company installed its offices in the former Motorola Solutions location in Schaumburg, and the former AT&T campus in Hoffman Estates will be getting a major multi-purpose overhaul from Somerset Development.

For Arlington, taxes are set to rise on the racetrack up to 20 percent compared to what gambling competitors pay, Churchill Downs Inc. said. Meanwhile, the company is still in the running for a casino in Waukegan.

Horse races will continue at least until 2021, but future options are still being considered. The track brings in a shrinking fraction of the company’s overall revenue and expenditures for the venture have risen, according to the company’s financial statements.

CEO William Carstanjen had said on a recent earnings call that the company would file for a casino license at Arlington Park by the end of August, but rumors that Churchill Downs would sell the track began as early as July, with speculation that it would cash in on the property’s increased value, according to Crain’s.

The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association expressed disappointment, saying Churchill Downs had snubbed working men and women and elected officials who have lobbied for the casino.

The Arlington track had seen declining revenue and increased costs even before the new legislation. A recent quarterly filing blamed the track’s decreasing revenues this year on poor weather at the track.

The company may have been waiting on legislation to make final decisions about the race track’s future.

“It’s hard to draw any conclusions about what’s going to happen moving forward. So we’ll monitor and make the best decisions we can,” said Carstanjen had said on an April 25 investor call.


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