Casino Gambling Approved At Illinois’ Fairmount Racetrack

In unanimous votes, the Illinois Gaming Board gave final approval for sports betting and tentative approval for a casino at Fairmount Park racetrack in Collinsville. The venue had been seeking new revenue sources to increase purses for decades. The board earlier approved a casino at Hawthorne Race Course. Arlington International Racecourse did not apply for either a casino or sports wagering license.

Casino Gambling Approved At Illinois’ Fairmount Racetrack

After decades of seeking new revenue sources to raise purses, on October 29, Fairmount Park in Collinsville received final approval to offer sports betting and tentative approval for a planned casino in unanimous votes by the Illinois Gaming Board. The expansion will provide about 400 new jobs.

The gaming expansion law passed last year allows casino gaming at four racetracks across Illinois. Besides Fairmount, the board previously approved a casino at Hawthorne Race Course, which has opened a sportsbook in a temporary location. Arlington International Race Course did not apply for a gaming license. A partnership led by Churchill Downs Inc., Arlington’s owner, applied for the gaming license in Waukegan, Illinois, one of six allowed by the 2019 gaming law.

Both Fairmount and Hawthorne still face several regulatory steps before their casinos can open. Both venues said they’ll offer casino gambling by late 2021.

Fairmount President and General Manager Melissa Helton told the board purses have steadily declined at Illinois racetracks while those in other states increased when gaming was added. Helton noted Fairmount Park, located across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, opened in 1925. “It has been a very enduring and hardy establishment. It has survived tornados, floods, fires and financial hardships. And that was before a global pandemic,” Helton said.

She added, “With the inception of new forms of gaming throughout the years, horseracing has suffered greatly with decreased purses and handle. The state of Illinois has been asked many times in the past to pass legislation that would lighten the burden that increased gambling has caused. The gaming bill giving us the right to apply for a racino, along with the sports wagering opportunity, has been the biggest event to bring Illinois horseracing back to what it was and forward to greater heights,” Helton stated.

Gaming board Administrator Marcus Fruchter said he could not commit to a firm timeline for license approvals, especially since there are multiple bidders for two licenses, including the one designated for Waukegan. “This may be unsatisfying to some, but we have a process and we’re sticking to it. History teaches what happens when corners are cut,” Fruchter commented.

He added the Covid-19 pandemic has moved licensing approvals back at least six months. “Like all government agencies and private businesses, the board’s work has been impacted by Covid-19. This is not an excuse or a crutch. It is simply a recognition of the realities that work and life are different in a global pandemic.”