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Racing Board passes out online betting licenses
By Ted Cox | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/13/2009 11:45 AM | Updated: 10/13/200 6:48 PM

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The Illinois Racing Board Tuesday assigned three licenses to online-betting companies affiliated with state horse-racing tracks, including Arlington Park.

As passed by the General Assembly earlier this year and signed by Gov. Quinn in August, the new law allows online "advanced-deposit wagering" on state horse races.

The law required that the tracks either run their own sites or formally contract with a third party. The Arlington Park license went to twinspires.com, a subsidiary of their Churchill Downs ownership, while tvg.com is affiliated with Fairmount Park in downstate Collinsville and youbet.com with Hawthorne, Maywood and Balmoral in the Chicago area.

"It's definitely a good thing," said David Zenner, senior manager of communications at Arlington. "It's a good thing for racing in Illinois. It's going to help the track and it's going to help the purses."

Illinois was previously a "legally gray state," in the words of Racing Board Executive Director Marc Laino, in which online wagering on horse races wasn't really prohibited or authorized.

Offshore sites and even others in the United States were siphoning off wagers "to the loss of the tracks and the loss of the state of Illinois," Laino said.

The new licenses, which take effect immediately, will enable the tracks to "recapture that lost revenue," Laino said.

"So many other states are doing it," Zenner added. "And now Illinois is finally getting involved."

He estimated between $100 million and $150 million could be wagered on the sites on races next year, bringing in more than $1.7 million to the state.

The tracks have sought the ability to run online gambling for years. Bettors can make wagers on any of the five tracks at any of the sites.