Illinois lawmakers have proposed eliminating a major roadblock that could clear the way for a new Illinois casino and horse race track in south suburban Richton Park.
The casino and horse track proposal comes from the recently-formed Greenway Entertainment Group. But before anything can proceed, lawmakers must pass a bill eliminating Hawthorne Race Course’s power to veto any competing racino within 35 miles of its track in west suburban Stickney.
Investment group tired of Hawthorne racing delays
Authored by Sen. Patrick J. Joyce, the bill SB1732, would amend the Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975 that gives racetracks veto powers if another plans to open within 35 miles.
Per language in the bill:
Provides that before
June 29, 2023, the additional organization license, issued by the Illinois
Racing Board for standardbred racing to a racetrack located in specified
townships of Cook County, shall not be issued within a 35-mile radius of
another organization license issued by the Board, unless the person having
operating control of such racetrack has given written consent
State lawmakers included the Hawthorne veto powers in the massive 2019 gambling expansion law. The law paved the way for six new casinos statewide, including one in Chicago, plus IL sports betting and “racinos” — horse racing tracks combined with casinos.
In a letter to the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB), Greenway’s managing member Drew Daniels wrote that the group had several meetings with elected officials in Richton that support the idea.
“We urge the Illinois Gaming Board and the Illinois General Assembly to consider the loss of revenue and endless delays that the current Act permits. And promote an alternative that allows this critical and meaningful revenue to commence without further inexplicable impedance.”
Daniels also wrote that “incessant delays” in Hawthorne’s plans for expansion created a “significant crisis” for the racing industry.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the Greenway group plans include a $300 million-plus development on an 80-acre site adjacent to Interstate 57 in Richton Park.
Village and investors see economic benefits
In a statement, Richton Park Village Manager Regan Stockstell said:
“The village of Richton Park is supportive of a mixed-use racino development and welcomes the opportunity in the area west of Interstate 57 along the Sauk Trail corridor. As it relates to [the bill to eliminate Hawthorne’s veto], the racino presents a meaningful economic development opportunity in the south suburbs that should be allowed to proceed.”
The former president of Arlington International Racecourse, Roy Arnold, is one of the prospective investors in the new project. Arnold led the group that tried to purchase Arlington before the Chicago Bears eventually won the bid.
Arnold said Greenway has a viable plan, but lawmakers must end Hawthorne’s veto power before anybody develops the site.
“We are almost four years into this and [Hawthorn] hasnt done anything,”
Hawthorne initially announced plans for a $400 million racino at its existing track to open in 2021, then in 2022.
Hawthorne President Tim Carey told the IGB that the project was delayed repeatedly by COVID-related complications and high-interest rates.
Carey said the racetrack could have easily put 1,200 slot machines in the grandstand, but instead, wants to build a state-of-the-art casino that would benefit horse racing long-term.