SPRINGFIELD -- Attendance and the amount of money bet on horses at Arlington Park continued to decline in 2011, according to the Illinois Racing Board's recently released annual report.
Last year, Illinois and out-of-state bettors gambled more than $426.7 million on horses via Arlington Park, whether it was on live races at the track or simulcast races elsewhere, the report shows. That's a drop of about 6.2 percent from 2010, continuing a steady decline in people playing the ponies at the state's biggest track.
Racing board reportThe Illinois Racing Board has released its annual report for 2011, which shows how Arlington Park fared last year.
86 -- Racing days in 2011
$426.7 million -- The total handle for Arlington Park, bet on live races and on simulcast ones
726,496 -- Live attendance
$21.3 million -- Total purses paid out to horse owners
$687.9 million -- Total Illinois handle on horse races statewide, including online betting
Attendance is down, too. About 726,500 people went to the live races in 2011, less than the 789,700 the year before. That drop could also be a reflection of the track's five fewer race days in 2011.
The situation at the Arlington Heights track isn't unique in Illinois, as gamblers statewide in 2011 bet about 5.2 percent less over 2010.
Track officials have pointed to the continuing declines to request lawmakers allow as many as 1,200 slot machines on site to generate revenue.
"We could reverse all those numbers," said Arlington Park spokesman Thom Serafin.
"It would be nice to be more competitive with how we run our business," he said.
Last year, lawmakers approved the slots. Gov. Pat Quinn objected, though, saying new casinos were OK for Illinois, but slots at the tracks are too much gambling. His mind hasn't changed on that point, spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said.
"The governor's framework provides for a smaller, more moderate expansion with stronger ethics standards and oversight, and sets aside adequate money for education," she said.
State Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat, said Tuesday that top lawmakers and a Quinn staff member have been meeting weekly to try to work out a deal.
"It is in desperate need to be saved," Link said of the horse racing industry.
He suggested a new proposal could begin moving when lawmakers return to Springfield after the March 20 primary election.
"I think you will see a little more action," Link said.