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The Sale of Arlington Park Impacts the Chicago Bears & Churchill Downs




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Horse race betting at the Kentucky Derby

A long run of Thoroughbred horse racing recently came to an end at storied Arlington Park in Illinois. It is sad to see such a great track close down. However, this could mark a new beginning for another iconic fixture in that state, which is something that many Illinois sportsbook fans are looking forward to.

The NFL’s Chicago Bears could be looking for a new home in the near future. Its long-time tenure at Soldier Field in the city has become tenuous with the stadium’s owners. There are a number of issues at hand between the team and the city. One at the top of this list is legal sports betting.

Bears’ president and CEO Ted Phillips wanted to open a sports betting lounge at Soldier Field. This would not have been an actual sportsbook. Rather, it would have created the feel of a betting lounge through the use of mobile betting apps.

Brand ambassadors would be used to help patron place bets online. Multiple television screens would have highlighted all the action. Overall, this would have been a great hospitality venue with a sports betting twist.

The Chicago Park District (CPD) was not too keen on the idea. As the actual owner of Soldier Field, this presented a major problem. The Bears were willing to give the CPD a 20% cut of the advertising revenue at the venue. However, the CPD had other plans.

This was just one glaring example of the growing riff between the team and ownership behind Soldier Field. This also aided the Bears’ decision to buy Arlington International Racecourse to use as part of their future plans.

Interestingly enough, the seller of that property was Churchill Downs. This could be a match made in heaven. Churchill was not interested in selling the property to another casino gaming company. The Bears would be the perfect fit even if they offered legal sports betting at this site.

Nothing is set in stone with the team’s planned purchase of the Arlington property. Yet, the possibilities are endless. Rest assured, if the team’s next football stadium is built in Arlington, it will offer an on-site sports betting lounge.

The future plans of Churchill Downs also changed with the sale of the Arlington Park property. Upon reaching an agreement with the Bears, the company changed its mind on building an Illinois casino.

Churchill partnered with Rush Street Gaming on the casino project. The group submitted an application to buy a Waukegan casino license almost two years ago. The same day Churchill Downs Inc. announced the sale of the Arlington property to the Bears, it withdrew its Illinois casino application.

Moving in a new direction, Churchill Downs Inc. is now planning to build another casino-style venue in its hometown of Louisville. The downtown project will break ground later this year with plans to open in early 2023.

The new entertainment facility will be the company’s second Derby City Gaming. It will house 500 historical horse racing machines which are similar to slots. The size of the venue will cover 43,000 square feet of space with open-air gaming, bars, and retail space.

The company currently owns and operates Derby City Gaming in South Louisville. This is just a few miles from Churchill Downs.