What’s That Illi-Noise? Ask Joe: What Is A Racino?

Written By Joe Boozell on January 19, 2021 - Last Updated on May 17, 2022
illinois racinos

Editor’s Note: Joe Boozell is the lead writer for PlayIllinois, and author of “What’s That Illi-Noise? Ask Joe.” If you have a question regarding legal gaming in Illinois, submit it to @Play_Illinois on Twitter or [email protected].

There should be at least two “racinos” in Illinois in the near future. But you might be wondering — what exactly is a racino?

A racino is a horse racing track combined with a casino.

Hawthorne Race Course and Fairmount Park (soon to be FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing) plan to open racinos within the next few years.

Patrons will be able to watch and bet on horse races outside while playing slots and table games inside.

There will also be sportsbooks at the FanDuel and Hawthorne racinos. So, these places will be ripe with gambling options.

Of course, it’s always important to bet responsibly.

Here’s what we know about Illinois’ two future racinos.

Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Race Course is located in Stickney, just outside of Chicago.

The new racino is expected to have a multilevel parking garage, upgraded horse wagering facilities and what has been described as “new dining options.”

Hawthorne director of communications Dakota Schultz said the racino would feature some of Chicago’s well-known culinary brands.

That’s in addition to a retail sportsbook, which was open for a bit before the latest Illinois COVID-19 surge. PointsBet operates the sportsbook.

Hawthorne’s CEO of gaming Kevin Kline said:

“I think a lot of people may have expected us to simply put some slot machines and tables into our existing facility, but we’re going to break the mold on what a regional integrated casino, racing and entertainment destination can be.”

The interior of the track has been gutted to make for an easier construction transition.

The original hope was that the racino would open by late 2021. But, as always, COVID-19 could play a role, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see that date pushed into 2022.

FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing

We don’t know as much about FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing’s specific plans. But we know it will offer many of the same things as Hawthorne, such as horse racing, slots, table games and a sportsbook.

Formerly Fairmount Park, FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing will be located in Collinsville, which is in the St. Louis area.

FanDuel and Fairmount officials said they plan to pour millions of dollars into the facility, though we don’t know the exact amount.

Fairmount Park general manager Melissa Helton has said that she hopes the retail sportsbook could open by the Super Bowl. However, that hinges on Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) approval and the state’s COVID-19 outlook.

Back when the FanDuel-Fairmount deal came to light, officials emphasized that there will be significant upgrades to the horse track itself.

Conditions had deteriorated over the last decade, and purse sizes were among the lowest in the country.

What about Arlington Park?

As of now, Arlington Park has no plans to pursue a sports betting or casino license.

It’s currently owned by Churchill Downs, which has, thus far, poured cold water on any expansion plans.

Arlington Park is Illinois’ most well-known horse racetrack, so it feels like there’s untapped potential there.

However, we likely won’t see any kind of sportsbook or racino unless it’s sold.

Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen hinted in July that it could be sold, saying “the long-term solution is not Arlington Park.” Carstanjen said:

“We’ve been patient and thoughtful and constructive with the parties up in that jurisdiction, but long term, that land gets sold and that license will need to move if it’s going to continue.

He added that “nothing is definitive, but certainly it’s something that’s on our mind.”

That’s a story to keep an eye on because if Arlington is sold, you’d imagine that any buyer would have ambitious plans in mind.

Photo by Jim Prisching / AP
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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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