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Chamber backs slots at Arlington Park
By Sheila Ahern | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/22/2008 12:10 AM

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Adding slot machines to Arlington Park racetrack will create jobs, tax revenue and tourism opportunities for Arlington Heights, according to the chamber of commerce.

The chamber has issued a statement in favor of slots at Arlington Park, said Jon Ridler, the chamber's executive director, on Monday.

"The expansion will help local businesses, especially when it comes to tourism," Ridler said. "Anyone who has been to the track sees how it's run professionally, and we believe that will continue if they're allowed to expand."

Arlington Heights Trustee Tom Stengren has asked the village board to reaffirm its position against slots at tonight's village board meeting. Officials are on record as opposing slots at the track, via a 1997 non-binding board resolution.

Trustee Joe Farwell said revisiting and deciding that issue may be too big a topic to tackle in one night.

"We haven't really talked about this in something like 12 years," he said. "I don't have a strong position on it either way. We need more input from the community."

Lawmakers spent most of 2007 proposing gambling expansion as a way to address the state's fiscal crisis, and including slots at Arlington Park appeared to be gaining political momentum.

But now there's no consensus on whether to expand gambling, and no vote is expected anytime soon. Lawmakers have finished their business for January and aren't due back at the Capitol until mid-February.

Arlington Park President Roy Arnold said he appreciated the chamber's stance on the issue of slots.

"The expansion will bring better jobs and more stable jobs," Arnold said. "We're not looking to have a confrontation with the board. We just want them to understand how dire things currently are."

In 1994, about $206 million was wagered by people visiting the track and Trackside, an off-track betting restaurant adjacent to the track. In 2007, that figure was $67 million, Arnold said.

Arlington Heights resident Nancy Duel is a local activist who has spoken out against the slots at the track.

"I don't understand why the chamber favors bailing out one business and not others," she said. "If people lose money at the track, they won't have money to eat out or visit at other Arlington Heights businesses."

The Arlington Heights village board will meet at 8 p.m. tonight at the Arlington Heights Senior Center, 1801 W. Central Road.