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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (10/15/08)

Contact: Tim Carey: 708-780-3663

Hawthorne to Benefit Illinois Racing with Bid for 10th Casino License

Full Casino and Resort to Showcase Racing in Comprehensive First-of-a-Kind Entertainment Destination

Stickney, IL—Just seven miles from downtown Chicago, the owner-operator of Hawthorne Race Course is proposing an entertainment destination unlike any in the nation, in its unprecedented bid for Illinois’ tenth casino license. Hawthorne’s Board of Directors, a 100-year old family business, has partnered with Altium Development Group and Merit Gaming Group, both leaders in gaming, entertainment and retail development and management to dramatically expand the use of its 136-acre real estate holding between Cicero and Laramie Avenues just north of the Stevenson Expressway and Midway Airport.

Hawthorne’s casino proposal would showcase racing against the backdrop of a comprehensive entertainment resort, including a water park, indoor and outdoor concert venues, movie theaters, a bowling lounge, and the largest sports bar in Chicago. As such it would be the first destination venue of its kind to offer full casino gaming opportunities alongside live championship horseracing. Racing related features of the proposed development include a new paddock, new winner’s circle and a new modern tote board with big screen race projections similar to those at Keeneland and Arlington Park. Additionally, spectator and player amenities will be greatly enhanced.

“This concept will significantly elevate the profile of Illinois horseracing,” explains Tim Carey, president and general manager of Hawthorne Race Course. “Illinois will now have two nationally top-tier tracks. All serious members of the industry, from horsemen, to track operators to Racing Board officials are looking for serious solutions to stem the decline of this great and proud sport. Some may see this is a radical move by Hawthorne, but it’s a move that is good for the industry and necessary for our business.”

Named CHAMPIONS Casino & Resort, the proposed development will be an entertainment destination that showcases the renowned heritage and nostalgia of Chicago sports but with the comfortable luxury and complete amenity of modern entertainment facilities. Several high profile Chicago sports icons have joined discussions to support the development, most notably Coach Mike Ditka who will develop a restaurant and/or hotel on the property. Physical development plans include:

  • 40,000 sq. ft casino
  • 1,150 slot positions
  • 50 table games and poker room
  • 300-room casino hotel, and conference center
  • 140,000 sq. ft entertainment district
  • 8-12 restaurants
  • 8 movie theaters
  • 25,000 sq. ft. bowling lounge
  • 150,000 sq. ft. water park resort with 400 all-inclusive suites
  • 4,800 seat outdoor subterranean amphitheater

“This is a great great thing for Illinois racing. It’s good for horsemen, good for trainers, good for fans,” said Joseph Sinopoli, chairman of the Illinois Racing Board. “This will put Illinois back in the top tier of the national racing circuit, giving us two premiere tracks running more high quality racing opportunities than any other state. We need to do everything we can to make this happen.”

The Illinois Racing Board has rightly acknowledged that we cannot wait for legislative relief in regards to slots,” explains Carey. “And more to the point they’ve explicitly cited a vital importance to expose more new fans to the live product. As host of the 10th casino we would have an unprecedented opportunity to address these needs and immediately benefit Illinois racing in a truly dramatic fashion.”

Frank J. Kirby, President of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, has already pledged support for the proposal as well.  “Thoroughbred racing has been an integral part of Hawthorne Race Course and Illinois for almost 100 years.  Tim Carey’s idea of a Champions Casino & Resort is brilliant.  He is thinking outside the box. This concept will benefit not only the 40,000 people involved in horse racing, but more importantly, the area and all the people of Illinois.”

“Not even Vegas has this,” explains Joe Canfora, CEO of Merit Gaming Group and former president of Horseshoe and Empress casinos. “Horseracing is the consummate players sport. Every handicapper has his or her own strategy to measure the odds and calculate the opportunities to win big. But when those horses are in the gate, the real excitement begins and in this way, horseracing is not all that different than poker or other table games. Once the cards are dealt, whether you’re a novice or a pro, it’s all about the energy. Our belief is that many, many casino players will discover the excitement and reward of horseracing simply by being here.”

However, Hawthorne, Merit, Altium and their investment partners, are covering their bets so to speak by including top-line development of non-gaming entertainment. “The way that this venue succeeds is as an entertainment destination for the whole family. It will be a part of the Chicago community with specific appeals to the downtown and south suburb markets,” adds Ed Pilarz, president of Altium Development Group. “No other applicant for the 10th license can provide this much entertainment to such a high-density market, which means no other applicant can benefit the state as much as this development can, both in terms of tax revenue and jobs created.”

“In specific terms of Illinois horseracing, I can’t imagine how any true supporters of this industry would oppose this bid,” explains Carey. “Whether you’re in favor of slots or impact fees, the point is that you recognize the need for more revenue, and this would further accomplish that goal. Furthermore, it would immediately expose new fans to horseracing and would enable us to provide a better product for current fans and an even better racing environment for horsemen. This is a win-win for the industry.”

Hawthorne Race Course is owned and operated by the Estate of Thomas Carey, the unencumbered landowner of the 136-acre site on which the track, barns, and other racing facilities are located. It is the oldest sports venue in Illinois and the oldest family owned and operated race track in the nation. Hawthorne has historically been a dual-breed track and is currently running its fall Thoroughbred meet which ends on January 11, 2009. Call (708) 780-3700 or visit the Web site at




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