O'Donnell: State of Illinois should review all Churchill Downs Inc. licensing

  • Horses take off last year during the 37th running of the Arlington Million at Arlington Park. Racing could be coming to a close sooner than many people would like.

    Horses take off last year during the 37th running of the Arlington Million at Arlington Park. Racing could be coming to a close sooner than many people would like. Daily Herald File Photo

Updated 7/31/2020 6:39 PM

"BUNKER BILL" CARSTANJEN peeked out of his Kentucky cavern this week long enough to officially pronounce Arlington Park a "DNR" -- "do not resuscitate."

At least not by Bunker Bill's Churchill Downs Inc.


In truth, word of Carstanjen's plans to push forward on the probable demise of the track and the sale of its 325 acres for redevelopment had inadvertently leaked days before.

That's when at least one major commercial real estate broker received a request from an official of CDI to ask about producing a "BOV" -- a "broker opinion of value" -- concerning the critical-as-to-life oval.

BOVs are "best guess" valuations by a firm that may wind up representing a property owner in a sale.

They are less formal than "appraisals," which are price points derived by licensed, third-party professionals with no skin in the game.

The Carstanjen death maneuver had been anticipated for months.

At this writing, local authorities, taxpayers and horse industry fans and professionals have no effective means of pushback vs. CDI because no focused civic entity has come together to champion any future for Arlington Park.

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The critical touch point for managing the CDI imperiousness would be the fact that the corporation operates in the state of Illinois solely because of its ability to gain licenses of privilege.

An official review -- review, not investigation -- of CDI's ways, means and licensing in Illinois would be in order.

The central question: Are the best interests of the state having a singular tourist landmark such as Arlington Park operationally upgraded and expanded into casino gaming or are they better served by allowing an out-of-state corporation to pick and choose from the guarded golden vault in Springfield?

The three logical principals in any effort to organize an appropriate review of CDI-in-Illinois would be the mayors of the three communities that would be the most impacted by Carstanjen's wrecking ball.

That honorable triumvirate would include: Tom Hayes of Arlington Heights, Jim Schwantz of Palatine and Joe Gallo of Rolling Meadows.

They don't have to be the hod carriers in this matter. They do have to generate pro-active, concerted leadership.


All proper principles applicable to fairness and specially privileged free enterprise should reign.

Otherwise, it will merely be benign supplication to the end of the reins at Arlington Park.

STREET-BEATIN': Yes it may sound excessively parochial. But if Anthony Rizzo suddenly opts out of the remainder of the asterisked season, the 2020 COVID cliffhanger is over for Major League Baseball. (His tweet of anguish from rainy Cincinnati Thursday night could prove to be a critical "tell.") ...

Great suggestion that the White Sox should electrify a warning wall for Eloy Jimenez. The headbanging sophomore plays the outfield like Charlie O'Connell used to skate for Roller Derby's Bay Area Bombers. ...

Dan Bernstein remains a midday host on slumping WSCR-AM (670). But he may be accelerating his own repositioning with lazy production. (A recent appearance by a Bulls "reporter" wasn't worthy of Radio Free Rockford; a whole lot of unnamed sources, banal speculation and "camps" equal a whole lot of tripe.) ...

Davis Love III has pulled the brassie on one of the shortest golf analyst turns in the history of CBS Sports. (The old Chapel Hill chum of Michael Jordan was self aware enough to admit: "I struggled at it, frankly.") ...

While CBS will be the primary carrier of the PGA next weekend from TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, ESPN will offer early tee-to-tee of the major for the first time in 30 years. (But having Scott Van Pelt anchor coverage on the 18th shows how bare the talent caddyshack at The Mothership is getting.) ...

Young TC Swirsky is back on the job as lead video coordinator for the Memphis Grizzlies. (The UNLV alum is the son of durable Bulls play-by-play voice Chuck Swirsky.) ...

Unconfirmed report that Korean baseball has not gone the way of the Bernie Sanders presidential bid. (Maybe Ben & Jerry's can come out with a commemorative flavor -- "Kimchi Diamond Coma.") ...

This weekend marks the 108th anniversary of the birth of Irv Kupcinet. (The man was an absolute masterful media craftsman and a great team captain, even if it did sometime mean Joan Crawford on the side.) ...

BTW, Kup's response to that last line would be: "Very funny my friend, but not my voice." ...

And Dodger-eyed Bob Tomaso -- as soft-soaking MLB '20 rounds an uncertain first base -- deadpanned: "When are they going to start teeing up the ball?"

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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