Angry board grills Arlington Park president, gives track a week to decide if it's 'no longer a horse racing enterprise'

Weeks after the stunning announcement that the corporate owners of Arlington International Racecourse won't pursue a newly authorized casino license, state horse racing regulators on Tuesday reamed the president of the suburban track for passing on the gambling jackpot that had long been sought as a financial lifesaver for the struggling industry.

Churchill Downs Inc. last month blamed high taxes, a saturated gambling market and required contributions to a state thoroughbred purse fund as reasons not to invest in up to 1,200 slots and table games allowed at Arlington under the state's new gambling expansion law.

Illinois Racing Board Commissioner Thomas McCauley called that "nonsense."

"The solution is already there. And Churchill rejected that solution," McCauley said as he and fellow commissioners grilled Arlington President Tony Petrillo for an hour during a Racing Board meeting at the Thompson Center.

The board opted to delay its vote on the licenses and dates for one week, instead passing a resolution to give Churchill time "to duly discern whether to maintain its current position going forward" and "reject the very activity it has pleaded for for so many years" - and to decide if it "really wants to signal to the world once and for all it's only a gaming software company, and no longer a horse racing enterprise," McCauley said.

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Arlington Park President Tony Petrillo appeared at an Illinois Racing Board meeting Tuesday at the Thompson Center in Chicago. Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times
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