Racetrack casinos in Illinois long overdue

2013-01-31T00:00:00Z 2013-01-31T16:11:06Z Racetrack casinos in Illinois long overdueJohn G. Brokopp Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
January 31, 2013 12:00 am  • 

There has been much heated debate revolving around the topic of gaming expansion in Illinois in recent years. The only decision reached thus far was to bring video gaming to restaurants, bars and lounges in the state.

The mitigating circumstances, of course, revolved around the budget crunch and the need for additional revenue.

Other states which permit either state-regulated casino gambling and/or pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing face a similar dilemma.

Thee racetrack casino sector of business showed growth during the last decade. There is every indication it will continue to grow.

The Illinois horse racing industry is struggling, in many respects through no fault of its own. At one time it was a major part of main stream American sports life, and it just so happened you could also wager on the outcomes of the races. Gambling and sports expansion combined with competition from other forms of entertainment took care of that.

It doesn't make sense that with so many models from other states to research, the political leaders of Illinois don't contemplate the logical way to expand gambling would be to bring it into the state's existing horse racing tracks.

Illinois' most successful casino operations are already subsidizing horse racing with a state-mandated three percent surcharge on their adjusted gross revenues.

Instead of forcing the casinos to support the race tracks, both industries seem to be better served when their respective strengths are combined.

The success of racino operations doesn't necessarily translate into increased interest in horse racing, but the revenues that are generated support valuable horse racing programs which are directly linked to the economy of this state.

The geographic locations of the tracks, including the four in the Chicago area, would be formidable racino operations capable of attracting customers from a broad geographic area without intrusive and controversial expansion into the neighborhoods.

The facilities are already state regulated, they have historic footprints, plus there is an abundance of under-used interior space and acres of parking. What's more, the structures are in place to facilitate rapid development and deployment of the operations.

What's Illinois waiting for?

CASINO NEWS: Jim Benes of Countryside, Ill., topped a field of 455 to win the $750,000 first-place prize and an Eclipse Award as Handicapper of the Year at the 14th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) Presented by Treasure Island and Sovereign Stable last Saturday in Las Vegas.

The 50-year-old Benes, a professional horseplayer, amassed a winning score of $268.40 from 28 mythical $2 win-and-place wagers and two mythical $4 win-and-place “Best Bet” wagers over the two-day tournament held at the Treasure Island Casino.

Benes qualified for the NHC at Hawthorne Race Course located in Stickney, Ill.

“My mother passed away a few years ago,” said Benes. “Her name was Mary, and when they were coming down the stretch of that last race and I heard a horse named Hail Mary on the lead, I wasn’t sure whether it was my mom trying to tell me ‘I’m here for you’ or ‘You should have bet on me!’ The only other thing I have been able to think of since then is my 9-year-old daughter. She’s going to be really happy and really proud of me when I get home.”

The opinions expressed are solely the writer's. Reach him at jbrokopp@comcast.net. John Brokopp's Beat the Odds tips air Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM Newsradio 780.

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