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posted: 4/30/2012 8:29 PM

Arlington Park's future still in Gov's hands

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Another year has passed.

Another year without a new gambling bill in Illinois.

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The truly amazing part is that the Illinois House and Senate -- made up of the people who represent us, the people -- actually got together in 2011 and agreed on a gambling bill.

And then one person out of 13 million Illinois residents decided he didn't like it.

Governor Pat Quinn killed the bill because it included slot machines at race tracks that would have saved the horse racing industry.

It's hard to decide which part of this story carries the greatest irony.

While the state is in financial crisis, millions in revenue go across the borders every day as Quinn worries about a bill that expands gambling too much.

And while he worries about expanded gambling, he expands by adding online lottery gambling.

He worries about expanded gambling with slot machines at race tracks, but he's willing to add five new Illinois casinos tomorrow if a bill meets his approval.

He's worried about casino oversight and protecting the public from corruption and crime, yet Arlington Park isn't a new gaming operation.

There's been wagering at the racetrack for 85 years, or 85 years longer than any of the new casinos in the bill.

If anything, the new casinos are the ones that need greater oversight, not Arlington Park.

Furthermore, the fear of what "element'' slots will bring to neighborhood racetracks is the same "element" cities and villages always fear when there's talk of adding off-track betting.

Perhaps, those who voice such concerns have never been to an OTB, or visited the slots rooms at race tracks in other states.

If they ever walked into one, they would see that the patrons are not the guys from "Goodfellas."

It's more like the guys from "Sunshine Boys."

I believe Quinn when he says he's trying to look out for the people of Illinois. I think he believes he is, but in this case he's not doing that.

Illinois is desperate for revenue, and the longer he waits, the more he's costing the people of Illinois.

People who want to gamble will find a way to do it, and right now those without access are doing it in Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri.

Quinn is listening to people who are trying to steer him away from slots at tracks as if that's going to make expanded gambling more palatable to those who don't want expanded gambling.

This is, of course, nonsense.

You can't sort of expand gambling. You either do or you don't.

Quinn already has done it with the lottery and wants to do it with five new casinos. To borrow from Winston Churchill, we've already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.

Why expand gambling and at the same time further degrade a horse racing industry that has been around much longer than casinos, let alone five startup casinos, and perhaps put horse racing in Illinois out of business entirely?

It just doesn't make any sense. It's not logical. It's downright baffling.

Then again, this is still Illinois.

Arlington Park

The Local Oval opens Friday in time for the first Party in the Park and the Kentucky Oaks, with advance betting for Saturday's Kentucky Derby. Opening Day admission is free, and there's a hot dog/drink special for 50 cents.

Among other new features this season is a partnership with Mike Ditka and his restaurant products, including beef sandwiches, Bloody Mary mix, cigars and wines. Ditka will also make appearances at Arlington, starting with Saturday on Derby Day.

New this year, punters with a smartphone or tablet will be able to use FastBet mobile and wager from anywhere on the grounds without leaving their seats, including a new beer garden out in the park near the band stage.

For more info, visit arlingtonpark.com.

Matt Kemp

While Chicago center fielders have a combined 3 home runs this season -- all from Alejandro De Aza -- Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp went into Monday with 11 home runs, on pace to hit 81 this season.

Let's assume Kemp -- who comes to town with the Dodgers Friday -- has a shot at 50 home runs this year. To this point, there have been nine seasons in major-league history of 50 or more home runs by a center fielder:

Junior Griffey 56 (1997, MVP), Griffey 56 (1998, fourth in MVP), Hack Wilson 56 (1930, no MVP voting), Mickey Mantle 54 (1961, second in MVP), Mantle 52 (1956, MVP), Willie Mays 52 (1965, MVP), Mays 51 (1955, fourth in MVP), Andruw Jones 51 (2005, second in MVP) and Brady Anderson 50 (1996, ninth in MVP).

Kemp's career high is 39, set in 2011.

Heart warming

Comedian Alex Kaseberg: "Deion Sanders tweeted pictures of himself and his two sons filling out domestic abuse arrest reports against their mother. Looks like somebody got their Christmas card picture taken early."

Best headline

Sportspickle.com: "Derrick Rose's knee injury likely due to his choice in sport drinks."

And finally

Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi: "The Miami Marlins opened up their new ballpark this season and fans were so excited they sold out one straight game. Moral of the story: A new ballpark doesn't make you a baseball town any more than a new hairpiece makes me Johnny Depp."

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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