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updated: 1/31/2014 9:40 PM

Arlington breathes a sign of relief

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  • The Arlington Million will return on Aug. 16 during the Arlington International Festival of Racing, the highlight of the track's 89-meet racing schedule.

       The Arlington Million will return on Aug. 16 during the Arlington International Festival of Racing, the highlight of the track's 89-meet racing schedule.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Tony Petrillo

      Tony Petrillo

 
 

It's been a pretty good week for the folks at Arlington International Racecourse.

On Wednesday, there was the last-minute passage of a bill extending Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) for three years, thus keeping alive a full 89-day schedule of racing this summer at Arlington beginning May 2.

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On Friday, the Illinois Racing Board approved the track's stakes schedule of 25 races worth $5.5 million, the centerpiece being the International Festival of Racing featuring the Arlington Million on Aug. 16.

"We're off and running," Arlington general manager Tony Petrillo said. "It's going to be a great summer of racing at Arlington."

And to think it almost wasn't, had the Illinois legislature not stepped up at the last minute to extend the ADW agreement.

"It was nerve-wracking all the way until the end," Petrillo admitted. "All the way until we saw (Illinois House) Speaker (Michael) Madigan gathering the legislators for the vote after the governor's speech."

Now with all that behind, the racing industry turns its attention to passing a gaming bill -- which has come oh-so-close to passage in the past few years.

"In an election year anything can happen," Petrillo said. "I think the legislature and the governor are well aware that this is a bill for racing, but it's much bigger than that. This is a bill for the state of Illinois. It's going to produce revenue, it's going to produce jobs."

Adding to the urgency for Arlington is the fact that this is the final year in which it has casino impact money (approximately $9 million) available to keep purses up.

"We spent approximately $13 million in 2012 and about $11 million in 2013," Petrillo said. "Spread out over the number of days we have, it's not a heck of a lot of money."

That impact money resulted in purses of about $250,000 a day in 2012 and $235,000 last year. This year, Petrillo expects daily purses to average around $230,000 a day.

But once that money runs out ...

"The gaming bill becomes more important," Petrillo said.

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