Horse Racing

‘Hawthorne Casino Coming Soon,’ says Track CEO

It’s been more than three years since Illinois governor JB Pritzker authorized racinos at Illinois racetracks and more than two years since the Illinois Game Board made a conditional decision to build facilities. gaming.

However, as the summer of 2022 turned to the fall of September 22, the Illinois Racing Board wondered, with several concerns: Where were the racinos that were supposed to pump the big bucks into account? wallet at Hawthorne Racecourse and FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racingbefore Fairmount Park?

Not only are there no racinos, but there’s not even construction activity on either track.

Riders are worried that their hopes are about to be dashed, but again, in the long story that begins with Churchill Downs Inc.’s 2020 decision. to close that track.

After months of silence, Hawthorne president Tim Carey finally delivered some answers and a powerful message of hope for the future, at the Illinois Racing Council’s first open meeting at New headquarters in downtown Chicago.

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“The Hawthorne Casino is coming, and it will transform Illinois horse racing for generations,” said Carey. That is my promise to our employees, our partners, and the entire industry.”

He acknowledged that the delay had led to frustration in the industry.

Noting that the fourth generation of his family that owns Hawthorne is now “essentially a 130-year-old start-up business,” Carey added, “For anyone who isn’t involved in this day-to-day process. , the necessary achievements we have achieved will not be seen, and so I understand how hope can give way to disappointment.”

Retention is an ongoing effort, he said, in addition to a July 2022 finding of “preliminary suitability” from the Illinois Gaming Board, an agency that deals with properties. integrity is much higher than operating speed. But Carey says that will eventually come into view.

“Once approved, we expect to start construction later this year,” he said, with a 14-month timeline between the first nail and the first roulette wheel. That will have casino operations in early 2024.

Modern White And Gold Casino Roulette Wheel On Black Background.  Close up.
Photo: Getty Images

Casino roulette wheel

While waiting for the regulation to come into effect, Carey said, Hawthorne has been making every possible progress behind the scenes, including reaching agreement in principle with 29 unions on contracts that will create created 1,200 construction jobs, leading to “the first union casino in Illinois.”

“And, of course, all of this development will happen while we’re racing,” added Carey.

“No one wants this more than we do,” he said, adding after a slight pause, “Except the horsemen.”

Plans and commitments remain far less certain at FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing, located in Collinsville, Ill., across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

Melissa Helton, president and general manager, said that while the owner of the track has settled in over the past few years and established the St. a casino or improvements to the track.

Helton said architects and city officials are working on the plans but admitted she doesn’t have formal approval for the project, raising concerns among commissioners.

“Where’s the possession today?” commissioner Leslye Sandberg asked. “Why aren’t they here to solve these problems? Come on, let’s do something a little more concrete.”

The IRB later revised the 2023 order to be Fairmount’s September 18-September. 18 days conditional for something more specific.

“On or before March 1, 2023, Fairmount Parks will provide the Illinois Racing Council with a detailed infrastructure improvement plan signed off by ownership, including a timeline for when which projects will complete,” the command said.

Dave McCaffrey, executive director of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said the actual construction of racinos horses will bring enthusiasm to owners and trainers.

“It’s a bit difficult right now to go to an owner who says buy a horse with uncertainty around everything,” he said. “There’s a lot of mystery. But if you see progress being made, and that progress is happening, and it’s visible, then that would mean a lot.”

IRB President Daniel Beiser noted that the Illinois racing community is counting on racino proceeds to help put the reeling Illinois racing industry back on track with surrounding states.

“The long-term future of Illinois racing depends on the track at both locations,” he said.

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