“Horse racing is dying in Illinois.”

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.


  1. There are fewer and fewer horses available to be exploited as gambling objects to fill out the race cards every year. Some of the horses racing now will be killed in one way or another and there will be fewer foals conceived and fewer foals born. Of those new foals, not all of them can be fast enough or tolerate the abuse inherent to horseracing once they become approximately 18-months-old. The decline in population of horses available to race is a trend that doesn’t show any signs of being reversed. It’s a sad fact that people who choose to exploit horses for racing are also animal abusers.

  2. Guaranteed financing no matter how many racehorses they kill and/or mangle.
    Then immunity from animal cruelty laws via their deeply corrupt racing commissions.
    For years, our elected politicians have been rubber stamping their business operations and most don’t even know what’s going on.
    It’s long overdue for them to press the reset button on this insanity, halt the financing and order neutral economic impact studies.
    The only one that I’m aware of took place in Ontario Canada (The Drummond Report) and the study concluded, to put it succinctly, that horse racing was not worth the cost to taxpayers, that their job numbers they claim are inflated and not factual, and that no amount of financing will ever restore it to it’s golden days or make it financially sustainable.
    There were many reasons cited as to why horse racing has declined from public sentiment to alternative gambling venues, high costs to become involved with it, aging demographics and no interest from the younger generation to sustain it.
    In short, it’s a money pit for the public coffers and for the casinos forced to support them.
    In the midst of all of this are the poor racehorses who pay the price every damn day and will continue to pay as long as these financial lifelines continue.
    Sad, but true.

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