Villa Park's new off-track betting parlor and Italian restaurant finally will cross the finish line Monday -- just as a new casino opens in Des Plaines and OTB revenues statewide continue to fall.
Village leaders and others will get a sneak peek at the 13,000-square-foot Salerno-Pincente Ristorante and Trackside OTB at a private reception today.
Grand openingWhat: Grand opening of Salerno-Pincente Ristorante and Trackside OTB
Where: 105 E. North Ave., Villa Park
When: Monday, July 18. OTB opens at 10:30 a.m., restaurant at 11 a.m.
Special events: Arlington Park-based jockeys Tim Thornton and Tanner Riggs and track announcer John G. Dooley will appear at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 20. A live-money handicapping contest to win a berth in the 2012 Gold Coast Casino's Horseplayer World Series and a trip to Las Vegas is scheduled for Thursday, July 21; registration must be completed by the fifth race, at roughly 2:30 p.m. Throughout the week, customers will have chances to win betting vouchers, food vouchers and Arlington Park merchandise.
Info: For restaurant details and menu, visit salernopincente.net.
The restaurant and OTB open to the public on Monday, July 18.
"It's been a long time coming, that's for sure," co-owner Andrew Salerno said Thursday, as workmen finished up last-minute details.
The restaurant/OTB in Villa Park's North Avenue TIF district has been in the works for four years -- and a dream of some village leaders for even longer.
In 2006, when the project was just a gleam in then-Trustee Tom Cullerton's eyes, the total handle for OTBs statewide was $509 million. By 2010, it was $346 million.
"With the economy the way it is, gambling is a luxury," said John Carpino, city manager in neighboring Oakbrook Terrace. The city is home to what was the highest-grossing OTB in the state until just last year, when it was overtaken by a Chicago facility operated by Arlington Park.
But it's not just the economy, racing experts say. There's also more competition for gambling dollars, including the riverboat casinos. Advance-deposit wagering (ADW), just legalized in October 2009, took in a $97 million handle in 2010. And Gov. Pat Quinn is mulling legislation that would put 1,200 slots at Arlington Park and five new casinos throughout Illinois, including in Chicago, Lake County and the south suburbs.
It could be months before a decision is made, but the proposal has the potential to have serious competitive consequences for existing gambling outlets, including OTBs.
Even so, restaurant and track officials say the odds are good for success in Villa Park.
The new restaurant/OTB is the second joint venture between Salerno-Pincente Ristorante and Arlington Park, which operates all the Illinois Trackside facilities.
Their first venture, which opened in Hodgkins in 2007, was one of the few OTBs that saw its handle increase in 2010, from $17.4 million to $18.3 million.
"Hodgkins is very, very successful for us and for the Salernos as well," said Gil Carmichael, senior director for off-track operations for Arlington Park.
"Villa Park is a good market," he said. "That's why we're here."
Carmichael isn't worried about the impact from the new Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, which also opens July 18.
"OTB markets are very regional," Carmichael said. "It's the convenience factor."
The Oakbrook Terrace OTB is only a few miles away, but the two wagering facilities are very different, he said. The Villa Park OTB is smaller and has a restaurant partner; Oakbrook Terrace is a large, traditional, full-service OTB operated by Maywood racecourse.
Small is relative, however. The new OTB features 140 state-of-the-art high definition viewing monitors, including a 100-inch projector unit. Bets can be placed at any of 20 manned or self-service terminals. Private Gold Club Rooms are available for VIP players.
Villa Park officials expect the OTB will generate $100,000 in revenue for the village the first year and more in subsequent years.
There was some opposition when the project was first proposed four years ago. "We did have a big group of people that protested it at the village board meeting," said resident Kathy Gilroy, who still believes it's a bad idea for Villa Park. "I think it's kind of fallen off the radar now."
The restaurant/OTB was initially going to be built on an outlot at North Park Mall. By the time negotiations were finished, the economy had tanked and it was difficult to get financing. Instead, the restaurant/OTB landed on the south side of North Avenue between Ardmore and Villa -- upscale new construction sandwiched between an Auto Zone and a cigar shop. Village officials are optimistic more new businesses will follow.
"I hope this will bring not just more people to Villa Park, but also act as a catalyst for additional redevelopment of North Avenue," said Shubhra Govind, director of community development.
• Daily Herald Staff Writer Mike Riopell contributed to this story.