While all the candidates for the Arlington Heights Village Board praise Arlington Park, only one of the five, Trustee Carol Blackwood, is offering unequivocal support for slot machines at the racetrack.
Incumbent Thomas Hayes and challenger Michael Sidor said they oppose the expansion of gambling at the park, feeling it does not fit the image of Arlington Heights.
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Challenger Bruce Green supports limited slot machines during racing season, but not a separate building or year-round gambling. Trustee John Scaletta says he would have to see a plan before taking a stand.
Management at the racetrack has said slot machines are essential to its survival. A bill that would allow slots without the permission of the village board passed the Illinois Senate in December, but was not called for a vote in the House. Residents have spoken in favor and against the proposal for years.
Gambling at the racetrack has been part of the village since the 1920s, said Blackwood, and Arlington Park management did its due diligence before saying slots are necessary.
"Who am I to say that they are wrong when they come to me and say they need expanded gaming?" asked Blackwood, who served on the village plan commission for 17 years and was appointed to the village board a year ago.
She expressed confidence in the village's procedures and planning and zoning process, and said the decision should be made on a business basis, not a moral one.
Hayes, a trustee for 20 years, said he does not have a moral issue with slots at the track, but thinks it would be bad for the village's image.
"The last thing I want my legacy to be is 'Come to Arlington Heights for the loosest slots in the Midwest'," he said. "And it's anybody's guess how it would all pan out with casinos at Des Plaines and elsewhere."
Sidor, who has been active in village issues and ran unsuccessfully for a board seat two years ago, said business development is more important to the future of the village than gambling, which he said is not a "golden ticket."
"I am fundamentally against expanded gambling at the park," he added. "I don't think it's what people move to Arlington Heights for. They come for the parks, schools, library and the community itself. It might put a different flavor on the community."
Green, chairman of the village's plan commission, said he is not a casino supporter, and believes the state legislature could be violating the village's home rule authority if it allowed slots at Arlington Park.
"A casino would take over," he said. "The horse racing track would go away and we'd be left with the casino."
Scaletta, who is seeking his second term, said he would need to see a specific plan with numbers of slot machines and hours of operation, but noted "Arlington Park is very, very important to this village."
"I guess I'm in the middle," he said. "I'd like to see what the proposal is before I can say whether or not I support the installation of slots at the track. I am not in favor of their operating 24 hours a day."