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posted: 10/17/2011 5:30 AM

Arlington Park among state's unpaid bills

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  • Illinois' unpaid bills include more than $203,000 owed to Arlington Park. The state owes through an incentive program for horse owners who enter Illinois born-and-raised thoroughbreds in races at the track.

       Illinois' unpaid bills include more than $203,000 owed to Arlington Park. The state owes through an incentive program for horse owners who enter Illinois born-and-raised thoroughbreds in races at the track.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 

Buried among the state's billions of dollars in unpaid bills is more than $203,000 owed to Arlington Park.

The state's unpaid bills aren't a huge part of the track's business. Gamblers bet more than $250 million both on and off the track at Arlington Park last year.

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But why would the Arlington Heights thoroughbred racetrack be owed state money?

Through an Illinois Department of Agriculture program, horse owners who enter races at the track can be eligible for special cash incentives if they run Illinois born-and-raised horses.

The point, says Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Charlyn Fargo, is to spur on the Illinois horse racing industry at a time when racing receipts are down.

"Agriculture is still our No. 1 industry," she said.

The problem is the track pays out those incentives almost immediately, shortly after the race.

But because of Illinois' backlog of bills, the state waits, sometimes for months, to pay Arlington Park the money it owes to cover those incentives.

"It's just that everyone is paying out late nowadays," said Arlington Park spokesman Thom Serafin. Serafin said track officials aren't complaining, though. The money always comes, even if it's late.

"We're no different from everyone else," Serafin said. "It's hard to be upset when we're all in the same boat."

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