by Bob Kieckhefer
Arlington Park chairman Richard L. Duchossois said he doesn’t know if the racetrack can survive unless the Illinois legislature finally allows Arlington to add slot machines. And he said he doesn’t know if that approval will be forthcoming.
Interviewed for the first time May 6, opening day at Arlington, on “Noon Business Hour” on WBBM-AM, Duchossois said he is optimistic about Arlington’s long summer meet because of customer-friendly innovations, and he said the long-range prospects are encouraging. But he acknowledged racing in general is going through tough times that threaten its very existence.
When asked directly if Arlington can keep going without slots, Duchossois said the added revenue “is very important right now. We need sort of a shot in the arm to carry us through that valley.”
Arlington is part of Churchill Downs Inc., a publicly traded company, so shareholders will ask questions about operations that continue to lose money, he said.
“When I owned the place myself, I just carried the losses myself,” Duchossois said. “I just didn’t want it to be too much.”
When asked if he believes the General Assembly will approve slots for Illinois tracks, Duchossois said: “I couldn’t say. I might place a bet on a horse but I wouldn’t on the Springfield legislators.”
The Illinois racing industry has been seeking legislative approval for slots for many years. In January, a bill passed the Senate but died in the House when the sponsor, after stating he had enough votes for passage, mysteriously failed to call the bill for a vote.
A new bill is pending with less than a month to go in the current legislative session.