Investors pitch second horse track, casino for $300M south suburbs project

Reversal of veto power held by competing track under consideration in Springfield

Endeavor Hotel Group's Roy Arnold and Former Governor Jim Edgar
Endeavor Hotel Group's Roy Arnold and Former Governor Jim Edgar (Endeavor Hotel Group, Getty)

A team of investors called Greenway Entertainment wants to bring some competition to Hawthorne Race Course in the south suburbs.

Greenway is targeting Richton Park with a proposal to build a horse racing track and casino, and Illinois lawmakers have started opening a path that could move the project forward, the Chicago Tribune reported. The site for the $300 million pitch is just a few miles from Wind Creek Hospitality’s planned 64,000-square-foot casino in Homewood and Hazel Crest that could run up to $440 million in development costs, with at least one if not two hotels coming to the site.

But its main competition might come from Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero, which currently has the power to veto any “racino” proposal within a 35-mile radius. But state officials are proposing a bill that would eliminate that power, paving the way for Greenway’s development plans for the south suburb.

Greenway’s Drew Daniels wrote a letter to the Illinois Gaming Board claiming the group had locked up a contract for an 80-acre site near Interstate 57, but “incessant delays” related to Hawthorne’s expansion plan are creating a “significant crisis” among the local racing industry.

Richton Park village officials are behind the new project, as it would allow for economic opportunities while reviving a dying industry. 

“The village of Richton Park is supportive of a mixed-use racino development and welcomes the opportunity in the area west of Interstate 57 along the Sauk Trail corridor,” village manager  Regan Stockstell said in a statement.

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The proposal to reverse Hawthorne’s veto power is a positive sign for developers wanting to embark on a racino. However, time is of the essence.

One of the investors that could jump behind the Richton Park racino is Roy Arnold, CEO of Endeavor Hotel Group and former president of Arlington International Racecourse, which closed down horse racing as it was being purchased for $197 million by the Chicago Bears for the NFL team to explore its redevelopment into a stadium district.

Arnold tried to buy the Arlington property to keep horse racing there and still hopes to do so through a deal with the Bears. On the possibility for a new south suburban racino, though, he noted lawmakers have been slow to revoke Hawthorne’s veto power, claiming it’s been discussed for four years.

The veto negotiation pertains to a gambling expansion law passed in 2019, allowing the addition of six new casinos statewide, sports betting and racinos. Former governor Jim Edgar is also urging state officials to act quickly in order to compete with a thriving racing industry in bordering states such as Indiana, Kentucky and Iowa.

— Quinn Donoghue

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