Two New OTBs Approved in Illinois

The Illinois Racing Board Tuesday approved two new off-track betting parlors, bringing to 25 the number of off-track wagering sites in the state.

Under Illinois racing law, tracks are authorized as many as 43 off-track betting parlors. The number actually operating had dipped below 20 in recent years as patronage failed to keep pace with the overhead costs associated with the free-standing facilities.

Recently approved parlors, including the two green-lighted Tuesday, are more "niche" operations, situated in existing food-service sites. The new parlors will be opened in McHenry, northwest of Arlington Park, and in Mokena, in the southwest Chicago suburbs.

Lorna Probst, a former commissioner recently reappointed as chairman, ran the IRB meeting for the first time.

In other action, the board asked for written statements from all parties to clarify a dispute over which race tracks are authorized to serve as "host track" for purposes of acquiring simulcast revenue. The issue arose in the wake of the move of National Jockey Club's operations at Sportsman's Park into Hawthorne Race Course's facility. The board is expected to consider the question at its next meeting.

Also, the board moved to change the 24-hour rule for administration of medication to 24 hours before post time of the race in which the horse is entered. Previously, medication could not be administered within 24 hours of the first race on the day's program.

At Probst's direction, a task force was also established to evaluate backstretch security, particularly at harness tracks.