Churchill Downs CEO: Rivers Casino will expand, add sportsbook

Churchill Downs' CEO Thursday discussed plans for the expansion of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, the introduction of slots or table games at Arlington Park Racecourse in Arlington Heights, and pursuit of one of Illinois' six new casino licenses allowed under the state's new gambling expansion bill.

Among these goals, CEO Bill Carstanjen was most specific about those for Rivers Casino during a conference call regarding Churchill Downs' second-quarter results.

The company acquired a 61% share of the Des Plaines casino in March.

“Gov. Pritzker signed the Illinois gaming expansion bill in late June, which among other things gives Rivers the right to expand from 1,200 gaming positions to 2,000, and gives Arlington Park the right to install up to 1,200 gaming positions,” Carstanjen said. “Rivers notified the Illinois Gaming Board last week that it intends to implement all 800 additional positions that are permitted.”

Such an increase would require not only a licensing fee of $24 million, but the physical expansion of both the casino building itself and its parking garage as well as the additional capital investment to do so, Carstanjen said.

Nevertheless, Rivers Casino would be able to increase its number of “gaming positions” by approximately 200 to 250 without such a physical expansion of the building and will be working with the Illinois Gaming Board to determine what it permissible in the shorter term, he added.

“Rivers will also pay the $10 million licensing fee in early 2020 to obtain an Illinois sports wagering license and will construct a sportsbook within its existing footprint,” Carstanjen said. “All of this is very, very exciting.”

He explained that he couldn't yet be as specific about the plans for Arlington Park but soon would be.

“We have until the end of August to submit to the state any request to add gaming positions,” Carstanjen said. “We will certainly provide our full answer within that time frame but will not do so today.”

Asked whether such growth at Rivers Casino as a hotel were possible, Carstanjen said such things made more sense to think about now than they did when the facility was locked into the gaming capacity it had before.

He also said more details would soon come regarding Churchill Downs' participation in the bid for one of the state's new casino licenses.

Des Plaines Mayor Matt Bogusz could not be reached for comment and Des Plaines City Manager Mike Bartholomew declined comment Thursday evening regarding Churchill Downs' expansion plans at Rivers Casino.

Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen Thursday said the company would provide details to the Illinois Gaming Board this month about plans to add "gaming positions" to Arlington Park Racecourse in Arlington Heights, but could not be immediately more specific. Daily Herald file photo, 2010
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