Local News

Hawthorne to reopen Arlington’s shuttered OTB in Villa Park

The Illinois Racing Board Thursday granted Hawthorne Race Course’s request to reopen Arlington Park’s off-track betting parlor in Villa Park, but five other locations formerly operated by the Arlington Heights racetrack remain shuttered.

The state panel unanimously issued the inter-track wagering location license and an associated concessionaire license for Crazy Pour, 105 E. North Ave.

Reopening of the betting windows is conditioned upon completion of required inspections related to fire and safety, according to Domenic DiCera, the racing board’s executive director.

Hawthorne Assistant General Manager John Walsh said Arlington’s OTB employees in Villa Park are being rehired by Hawthorne.

Hawthorne, based in Cicero, has now picked up five of Arlington’s old parlors, having received licenses late last year for the ones in Aurora, Hoffman Estates, McHenry and North Aurora.

Arlington’s OTBs at Arlington Trackside on the racecourse property at Euclid Avenue and Wilke Road in Arlington Heights, on Weed Street in Chicago, and in Green Oaks, Hodgkins and Rockford closed Jan. 1, after the racing board declined corporate owner Churchill Downs Inc.’s request to keep the network of OTBs open.

Despite Arlington’s Sept. 25 closure and pending $197.2 million sale to the Chicago Bears, Churchill officials said they wanted to keep the parlors open as they search for a new thoroughbred racetrack elsewhere in Illinois. But several members of the appointed state panel didn’t take that as a commitment to the Illinois horse racing industry, and the board’s 5-5 vote last month meant a denial of the request.

Meanwhile, Hawthorne is limited by state law to operating 16 parlors, and is trying to secure state legislative approval for more.

The Villa Park parlor, which marks its 15th location, is opening amid the closure of an OTB in downstate Ottawa. Walsh said revenues were continuing to fall and there were plans to close it anyway. Full-time employees there were transferred to the Joliet and North Aurora locations, he said.

Hawthorne is aiming to take over Arlington’s old OTB in Green Oaks, but licensing requests were pulled from Thursday’s board meeting agenda because the application for concessionaire Post Time Sports Bar & Grille is deficient, a racing board spokesman said.

If the issue is resolved, the item could be heard at a later date, the spokesman added.

But he didn’t say whether it was related to Anthony Panico’s May 2021 guilty plea of evading more than $2.4 million in federal and state income taxes. Panico, of Libertyville, is head of the family that owns Post Time and other businesses. He was sentenced to two years in prison last October.

An attorney for Post Time couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.