Probe Requested on Racetrack Merger

A state senator in Illinois is calling for a probe into whether Arlington International used recently enacted state subsidies to increase its value and make it more attractive to potential buyers, according to the Chicago Tribune. The request from Rep. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston), chairman of a House budget panel, for an investigation by Attorney General Jim Ryan stems from the announcement last week that Churchill Downs is acquiring Arlington.

Schoenberg is also asking Ryan to determine whether the state can terminate the subsidies if there is evidence that Arlington owner Richard Duchossois was negotiating with Churchill Downs while the financial package was being approved by lawmakers last year, the newspaper reported.

"While the legislation was portrayed as necessary to assist the state's horse-racing industry as a whole from competition by riverboat gambling, the true result was to dramatically increase the value of a then-shuttered Arlington International Racecourse for its eventual acquisition," Schoenberg wrote.

Commenting on the Churchill merger discussion, Thom Serafin, a spokesman for Duchossois, told the Tribune they "were recent."

"I felt this deal was a stinker when we first voted on it, and it hasn't become any more attractive since," Schoenberg said Sunday of legislation that offers Arlington additional revenues from a riverboat casino in which it will be a partner. "It's essential we have a better understanding of whether there was an agreement before the Illinois Racing Board meets to discuss the merger at the end of August.