Hawthorne plans sportsbooks at three suburban OTBs, including Prospect Heights

A retail sports betting site is expected to open as soon as next month inside Player's Pub & Grill in Prospect Heights - one of three new sportsbooks that will launch at existing off-track betting parlors operated by Hawthorne Race Course.

The Stickney-based horse racetrack announced a partnership with global sportsbook operator PointsBet to run the local sportsbooks, which are also expected to launch soon at existing OTBs in Oakbrook Terrace and Crestwood.

Plans call for a flagship sports betting location at the track itself as part of its $400 million redevelopment into a "racino" that will offer live horse racing, slots and table games. An online and mobile app debuted over the weekend.

While Illinois' 2019 gambling expansion law provided a slew of new gambling options for tracks like Hawthorne and Arlington International Racecourse, it also allowed up to three of a track's existing OTBs to begin offering bets on sports.

Each track runs 10 parlors statewide, with Hawthorne's furthest one north in Prospect Heights.

Arlington's parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., is taking a different approach, having decided a year ago against the addition of slots and table games at the Arlington Heights racetrack.

And in July, CEO Bill Carstanjen said Arlington no longer planned on pursuing the state sports betting license it applied for only months earlier, based on the early success of the Rivers Casino sportsbook, which was the first to launch in the state in March. Churchill owns a 61% stake in the Des Plaines casino.

In addition to Illinois' 10 casinos, up to seven sports stadiums statewide with a capacity of at least 17,000 are also eligible for in-person sports wagering.

At Hawthorne's Prospect Heights OTB, 1250 S. River Road, interior renovations to expand and reconfigure wagering windows are nearly complete, according to Dan Peterson, the city's director of building and development.

The city council Monday night approved changes to city code that would allow sports wagering as a permitted special use at the existing OTB. The Illinois Gaming Board issued a master sports wagering license to Hawthorne in July.

While unable to provide a precise estimate, Prospect Heights officials said the addition of sports wagering to Player's Pub would prove beneficial to city coffers.

The establishment already provides revenue from taxes on horse bets, video gambling, food and liquor. The city gave the bar $500,000 to help fund the 2,500-square-foot OTB addition that was unveiled in 2016.

"We view this as a very easy transition to add a new revenue stream to the city that is one of our very good business partners," Peterson said.

A representative of Player's Pub said Tuesday that the sportsbook could launch as soon as Oct. 1.

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