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updated: 5/30/2015 7:07 PM

Arlington Heights mayor: Village backs gambling expansion

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  • Mayor Tom Hayes speaks during the Arlington Heights 28th Annual Mayor's Community Prayer Breakfast, held Thursday at the Doubletree in Arlington Heights.

      Mayor Tom Hayes speaks during the Arlington Heights 28th Annual Mayor's Community Prayer Breakfast, held Thursday at the Doubletree in Arlington Heights.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 

Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said two Fridays ago that adding table games in addition to the slot machines Arlington International Racecourse has long coveted would be "not fitting" for the village. But in a letter dated this Friday, he endorsed expanded gambling options for the track without attaching caveats, saying it's "about ensuring the survival of one of the most highly recognizable and economically significant institutions in our region."

The idea of adding table games has been discussed by lawmakers in recent weeks as they've tried to craft a new gambling plan. "That is something that we would welcome," said track General Manager Tony Petrillo.

Hayes initially said he didn't love the idea.

"When you're starting to talk about table games plus slot machines, I don't see how anybody wouldn't define it as a casino," he said. "In my mind, not fitting for Arlington Heights."

Friday's letter to state Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights sets a different tone.

"Without the possibility of new revenues, its very survival is in question," Hayes wrote in a letter sent on behalf of the village.

"Aside from the intangible and historic value it brings to our region, Arlington International is the largest employer in the Village of Arlington Heights, with over 3,500 employees who rely on their income from Arlington International to earn a living," Hayes wrote.

Hayes didn't return a call Saturday seeking comment.

With the legislature scheduled to adjourn Sunday, lawmakers are highly unlikely to send Gov. Rauner a new gambling plan. Still, they've locked horns with Rauner in such a way over the state budget that in could draw their annual session out in the summer, perhaps breathing new life into the issue.

Harris said he hasn't committed to vote either way because a new plan hasn't yet surfaced. But he said it's valuable to have the village's opinion.

"I certainly take letters seriously when they're coming from constituents," Harris said.

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