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Gambling opponents have eye on Arlington Heights
By Joseph Ryan | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/13/2010 12:00 AM

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Gambling opponents are hoping to mount pressure on Arlington Heights officials to stand up for local control should Arlington Park finally win slot machines.

"We would hope they would see their interests are at stake," said Edie Jolly, a former Arlington Heights trustee now working with anti-gambling groups.

Arlington Park and Illinois' four other racetracks have been pitching to lawmakers a plan to give them thousands of slot machines to make up for revenue lost to municipalities that voted to keep video gambling out of town.

Video gambling machines were legalized in bars and other establishments to help pay for a $31 billion public works package, but many suburbs have opted out of the law. The state could be short on funds if Chicago doesn't repeal its current ban, officials say.

But previous legislation to add slots at racetracks has been written to override local control so that town officials, like Arlington Park trustees, can't later decide to shut down the gambling, cutting off cash to the state.

Arlington Heights' village board has passed a resolution twice in the last 20 years asserting the desire to keep local control. Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder said Monday she stands by that resolution, but would have to see the final legislation before commenting. It remains unclear if any such legislation will move this year in the General Assembly.

"Every year, it is a potential and every year, nothing happens," Mulder said. "If there is something that comes before us, we will take a look at it."

Jolly is working with the Rev. Tom Grey, head of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, and Nancy Duel of the Northern Illinois Conference for the United Methodist Church. The three spoke before the Daily Herald editorial board Monday, making the case against slots at Arlington Park as well as other legalized forms of gambling.

Arlington Park officials have argued slots at the racetrack will help bring in new money to pay bigger purses, attracting better horses and jockeys and breaking a downward spiral in the Illinois racing industry.