When Churchill Downs Inc. pulled the plug on Arlington Park in 2021, it left the whole of Illinois, once a major racing player, with but two tracks (there are three separate operations: Hawthorne hosts both flat and harness). But for those final two, a gift (from taxpayers) was en route: racinos. Alas, for Fairmount and Hawthorne, neither has been built yet. A recent Chicago Tribune article on Hawthorne explains: “[S]ince granting preliminary suitability and demolition approval to Hawthorne in 2020, the gaming board has not received any subsequent construction requests from the track.”
The primary issue is financing, what with high interest rates and all. And the Carey family, Hawthorne’s owner, is determined to do this on its own (i.e., without partnering with a casino company). What this means is, the racino opening will not happen until 2024 at the earliest, a scary proposition for the exploiters. From the piece: “While Hawthorne waits for casino revenue, the industry in Illinois is gasping for breath. ‘Horse racing is dying in Illinois,’ Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Executive Director David McCaffrey said.”
The situation in Illinois illustrates, yet again, the massive challenge we advocates face: We can win the collective heart and mind – indeed, I believe if horseracing were put to a national vote, we would win – but as long as these subsidies remain on the books (Illinois is relatively late to the game, voting them in just three years ago), horses will continue to be abused and killed. The best that we can do in the now is bring awareness to, and then pressure, politicians. In Illinois, here’s a good place to start: Governor Pritzker, 217-782-6830 (6831), contact form.