Illinois Horse Racing and Sports Issue Still Pending

Despite moving to the brink of a two-year contract for horse racing in 2020 and 2021, Arlington Park and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association have yet to put pen to paper on an agreement and forced the Illinois Racing Board to recess its Thursday meeting for approval of this season’s schedule until Friday.

The sides were supposed to have a signed contract in place by Jan. 1, 2020 as part of the $12 billion capital bill Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last June that also legalized sports betting in Illinois. Arlington Park tweeted Wednesday saying it had reached a tentative agreement with the ITHA, but the two sides had a breakdown prior to Thursday’s scheduled board meeting. The ITHA had issue with the language in the contract because purse projections could change if Arlington does not receive the same amount of race days in 2021 that it has in previous years.

More about this Illinois issue:

Belmont Stakes 2020 wagering recap

Will Racing Return to Balmoral Park?

“It’s one of the most unique properties in Chicagoland, and it deserves to be put back into action,” Goldberg said. “Our plans include making it a premier sports and entertainment venue that Chicagoland and the south suburbs deserve.”

Goldberg’s group signed a contract to buy Balmoral for an undisclosed price from HITS Inc., the New York-based company that has hosted show horse productions at the track the last few years.

All the new owners need now is for state lawmakers to amend the Illinois’ massive gambling expansion law to allow for racing in Crete Township. But threading that legislative needle will be no small feat, as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot can attest.

And representatives for the horsemen who would work at the harness track — who pushed to include it in the new gaming law — are skeptical about the dark horse Balmoral bid.

“There’s a shroud of mystery that’s concerning,” Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association executive director Tony Somone said. “Who is Phil Goldberg? He’s not a racetrack person, not a gaming person. We’d like to work together with this group, but we don’t really know who we’re dealing with.”