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Village gets say on slots, track fears being shut out
By Dan Carden | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/22/2009 12:01 AM

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SPRINGFIELD - Arlington Heights would get a say on whether slot machines come to Arlington Park following a rewrite of a gambling expansion plan in the Illinois Senate Thursday. But Arlington Park says it can't support the plan as it's written now.

The revised proposal allows up to 1,000 electronic gaming machines at horse tracks, operated by riverboat casino companies, so long as the local village board approves. But Arlington Park objects because it wants to operate any gaming located at its track.

"We believe that Arlington should be able to operate with a Churchill Downs-owned license at Arlington Park and that there be no bidding necessary," said Jim Stumpf, an Arlington Park vice president. The 82-year old track is owned by Kentucky's Churchill Downs, which operates casinos in Florida and Louisiana but does not hold an Illinois gaming license. Gaming companies with existing Illinois licenses would get to bid first for slots at track locations under the plan.

"We don't need assistance from another racing and gaming company. We have expertise in operating in other states," Stumpf said.

The plan's sponsor, Waukegan Democratic state Sen. Terry Link, listened to Stumpf in the Senate Gaming Committee but said he won't make any more changes before a final Senate vote. The plan also calls for new casinos in Park City, Chicago and Rockford, allows existing riverboat casinos to become land-based and ups the number of gaming positions at casinos from 1,200 to 2,000.

Even if the plan passes the Senate it faces an uncertain fate in the House, where powerful Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, has said he'll block casino expansion.