SBJ/June 8 - 14, 1998/No Topic Name

Last post time for Arlington?

All bets are off as to whether Chicago's Arlington International Racetrack will reopen next year.

Chairman Richard Duchossois closed the $200 million racetrack last fall, citing financial losses of $70 million since the track was rebuilt after a fire in 1989.

Now Arlington, one of the country's finest horse-racing facilities, is hosting a series of summer festivals instead of pari-mutuel wagering.

Duchossois has yet to apply for 1999 racing dates with the Illinois Racing Board, increasing speculation that the track will be silent next year.

Arlington officials refused to comment, though CEO Scott Mordell said studies are under way to determine other uses for the track, which is on prime real estate 25 miles northwest of Chicago.

"We'd like to race again, but it doesn't make sense to," Mordell said. "We are investigating long-term uses of how to develop the property."

What Duchossois wants are lower taxes on horse-racing revenue and a piece of the gaming action that has surrounded Arlington International by way of riverboat and land-based casinos in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

"Somehow racing in Illinois needs to be modified," Mordell said. "We are taxed more than the boats on a per-wager basis."

But the political climate is running against Duchossois, and it appears that Illinois horse racing hasn't suffered much with Arlington International shut down.

The daily money wagered this year at Sportsman's Park, the south suburban track that took over Arlington racing dates, is the same as last year at $325,000 per day.

"The handle has been the same and Sportsman's has been able to pay $200,000 in daily purses," said Don Fritz, executive director of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horseracing Association. "We're hoping [Arlington International] comes back, but we will survive if it doesn't."

Duchossois has until September to apply for racing dates. He may wait until the last minute to play his hand.

"We've been talking to horseman groups and other tracks about the future of horse racing," Mordell said. "But we are not talking about dates with anyone right now."

The only given is that Duchossois will not unload the facility.

"We are not for sale," Mordell said. "Mr. Duchossois has made it clear that selling is not one of our approaches. But for all practical purposes, we are closed until the industry comes up with a reason to be optimistic."

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