Plagued by bad weather and short fields during the first month of its season, Arlington Park lost ground to racetracks in other states where purses are sweetened by slot machine revenue, Arlington president Cliff Goodrich told the Illinois Racing Board June 10.
Attendance is up for the third straight year, and on-track wagering on live races also is up about 3%, Goodrich said. But betting at Arlington on signals from other tracks is up 15%, while wagering at other tracks on Arlington's races is down 12%.
Frequent rain has forced races off the turf and reduced fields. But Goodrich said competitive factors also play a major role.
"We are losing horses to those states that have slots at their tracks," he said. "Unless we can find a way in (the legislature) to vault our way to where we should be, we continue to lose ground."
The Illinois General Assembly is considering legislation that would expand casino gaming and also authorize slot machines at racetracks. While both the state and the city of Chicago desperately need the revenue the measure would generate, it is languishing in an extended spring legislative session because of political infighting.
"We are a very small fish in a very big pond" in the capital, Goodrich told IRB members. "We're kind of caught in the middle. I can tell you, the industry is not the problem...We just don't have the political might to control the process."
The governor, legislative leaders, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley are trying to resolve the budget impasse. A compromise on gaming legislation still could be part of the solution. The state faces a government shutdown if a deal is not made before the end of June.