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Owners place bet on OTB in Hoffman Estates
By Ashok Selvam | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/2/2008 4:00 PM

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Another attempt to bring off-track betting to Hoffman Estates is in the works.

The owners of the Turf Room, a North Aurora restaurant with a betting parlor, confirmed today they're eyeing part of the Cabela's property near the Sears Centre arena off Route 59. Turf Room co-owner and chef Shawn Hartwig said the Hoffman Estates locale would be dubbed the Saddle Room.

Hartwig hopes to get started right away and finish construction by the end of 2009.

Turf Room owners sunk $4 million in the North Aurora restaurant, which opened 13 months ago. Hartwig said they're going to go bigger in Hoffman Estates.

"It's going have the same concept, which is multiple rooms," he said. "We'll have a huge deck overlooking the natural reserve there."

Village officials stress the plan is far from a sure bet, as the proposal needs several permit approvals and would ultimately face a village board. A state OTB license is also required.

Hoffman Estates Director of Economic Development Gary Skoog said no land deal has been finalized between outdoor gear retailer Cabela's and the Turf Room group.

"We've been talking to them. I don't think it's a big secret," Skoog said. "We're excited in today's economy to get a top-rated restaurant."

Cabela's corporate spokesman John Castillo confirmed negotiations are taking place over the land sale, adding the purchase probably wouldn't happen until 2009.

Inter-Track Partners would run the OTB component, as it does inside the Turf Room, said Hartwig. Inter-Track President Bob Bilocerowycz would not confirm his Melrose Park company's involvement, only saying "several things are in the works." He also mentioned how projects within Prairie Stone, including the Prairie Creek Amphitheater, have stalled because of the credit crunch.

"There's been a lot of talk, but until someone actually buys the land and gets control of the situation," it's just talk, Bilocerowycz said.

The state regulates OTBs, requiring them to be at least 500 feet from a church or school and at least 10 miles from another OTB.

Last May, Bilocerowycz pitched a plan to the Hoffman Estates Village Board to bring an OTB to Poplar Creek Bowl at Barrington Square Mall.

At the time, he said it yearly would bring in $15 million to $20 million, of which the village and Cook County would each get $150,000 to $200,000.

But the proposal failed to progress, with Mayor William McLeod and other trustees saying they didn't like the location. One issue was its proximity to a day care center.

Inter-Track also operates the Ringside Sports Bar and OTB, which opened in 2007 in Elk Grove Village. Bilocerowycz at the time said Ringside filled a void, giving customers another area parlor besides Trackside at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights.

Skoog said both Inter-Track and the Turf Room's owners have positive track records. Inter-Track also runs Magee's in Niles and Oakbrook Terrace OTB. The Turf Room's group also own a restaurant in Minneapolis called the News Room. Skoog said the Turf Room handles its OTB component "very tastefully."

"We have looked into it and talked to other communities," he said. "I think they say the most frequent police contact is about somebody who locked their keys in their cars."

Elk Grove Village police Sgt. Mike Gaspari said officers haven't reported any criminal activity near the OTB since Ringside's opening.

"We have nothing bad to say about those guys," he said.

Hoffman Estates has long been a target for a possible OTB. Last year, there were rumblings of bringing one to Poplar Creek Golf Course, which is run by the Hoffman Estates Park District. Those plans never made it before the park board. The open land at Prairie Stone Business Park is seemingly attractive in that it's away from schools and residential areas.

"It's usually a retired crowd," Skoog said. "It's not the kind of seedy element that a lot of people think about."