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Arlington Park 'not enthused' by new OTBs
By Ashok Selvam | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/7/2009 12:02 AM | Updated: 5/7/2009 9:30 AM

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Arlington Park President Roy Arnold doesn't try to hide his dismay about a rival's plans to open off-track betting parlors in nearby communities.

"We are not enthused," he said. "And frankly, we're a little disappointed with our neighbors in Hoffman Estates and Buffalo Grove."

Arnold acknowledged OTBs can help cultivate fans in "underserved areas." And Arlington Park itself operates OTBs and plans another in Villa Park.

Still, he said the two planned by rival Inter-Track Partners - and the one it already operates in Elk Grove Village - could take away fans and hurt the park's bottom line. Inter-Track is affiliated with Maywood, Hawthorne and Balmoral tracks.

"We believe they are not creating a new customer," Arnold said. "They're simply shifting customers from one location to another."

Villa Park's planned OTB will add to Arlington Park's stable of parlors, which operate in places like Waukegan and Hodgkins and next to the Arlington Heights track itself. Yet Villa Park is close to the Inter-Track facility in Oakbrook Terrace.

Arnold said Arlington Park will continue to be a good neighbor, hosting nights for communities like Hoffman Estates where residents can receive discounted admission to the track. Despite track officials' frustration with Hoffman Estates' recent OTB approval, it would be a knee-jerk reaction to discontinue the promotion, Arnold said.

He just wishes Hoffman Estates and Buffalo Grove would understood how important their residents are to the racetrack.

"We believe we are good corporate citizens," Arnold said. "We have been very supportive of charities and community requirements through the years."

He also criticized Inter-Track's revenue projections, saying the numbers - such as the $20 million in annual wagers touted for the planned Hoffman Estates OTB - are "overstated."

"They'd have to have one heck of an OTB to get to $20 million," Arnold said.

He pointed out there are few OTBs that post those types of revenues, and it usually takes a while to build a customer base. Arlington's Chicago locale saw $39.2 million in wagers last year, Waukegan $28.1 million, Homewood $4.6 million and Hodgkins $16.2 million, according state racing board figures.

Though Hoffman Estates' Saddle Room's location, inside the Prairie Stone Business Park near the Sears Centre and away from school and residences, was lauded by Inter-Tack and local officials, Arnold remains unimpressed.

"I'm just very skeptical that it's going to have the density and population in those places to produce," he said.

He acknowledged the sport needs to grow fans, adding he's in favor of a current proposal in Springfield to legalize allowing Internet wagering. He doesn't see it as a threat to OTBs and said there will always be a place for them in the Chicago area.