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Villa Park hears pitch for OTB, restaurant
By Kathryn Grondin | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 2/13/2008 12:17 AM

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Arlington Track officials and their partners say name recognition and a good location make Villa Park a good wager for an off-track betting parlor.

Arlington Park President Roy Arnold made his pitch for a 10,000-square-foot betting parlor and Italian restaurant before a standing-room-only crowd Tuesday at village hall. More than a dozen residents spoke out against the proposed establishment during the two-hour public forum.

"I have a bare piece of property. Here's an opportunity to building something new, something that's going to last a long time," Arnold said. "It's not a theory. It's a quality investment that we feel will draw other businesses to the area.

"Our clientele don't want to go to the bigger OTBs without anything to do. They want to be able to watch the Bears … have a meal … . They want to make it their social club. It's entertainment."

The racetrack and its parent company, Churchill Downs, own similar Trackside betting parlors with adjoining restaurants in Waukegan, McHenry and South Elgin.

About half the facility would be devoted to a Salerno Pincente Ristorante, with the remainder housing the off-track betting parlor affiliated with the Arlington Heights racetrack. The wagering portion would be separated from the family-style restaurant and monitored so that only individuals 18 and older can enter.

"It's a quality restaurant with a sports bar that happens to have a theme of horse-racing," Arnold said.

Another draw for the location was restaurant owners Frank Pincente's and Andrew Salerno's belief in the market, Arnold said.

"They know the Salerno name in Villa Park," said Salerno, whose family owned an eatery along St. Charles Road for 15 years before closing in the early 1990s. "The location is great … visibility and access to major roads."

Arnold estimated the facility would generate $100,000 in betting profits annually for the village, another $100,000 for DuPage County and $150,000 for state coffers. It would provide 30 to 50 jobs for area residents.

In comparison, the nearby competing Inter-Track Partners' off-track betting parlor in Oakbrook Terrace is 25,000 square feet and generates between $700,000 and $800,000 for the city.

Several residents and others spoke out against the off-track betting parlor, mostly on moral grounds.

"Gambling has been a bane on many lives and families from my experience," said the Rev. Stephen Swanson. "Gambling does not bring the economic benefits promised. The social cost is far too great."

Addison resident Patricia Kosmachin, who lives behind the mall, also objected. "Gambling and off-track betting is an adult-oriented business that does not belong in a family community," she said.

Only one resident welcomed the facility.