The Hawthorne Race Course of Stickney, Illinois will not be conducting thoroughbred racing during the spring season of 2020. Instead, the facility will concentrate on building a casino and sports betting venue. The thoroughbred horsemen will have about a four-month gap where no racing will take place at the facility.

Hole in Scheduling:

Hawthorne and Arlington International Racecourse have worked together for several years, coordinating their schedules. Live cards would take place at the Hawthorne facility from the late winter months until May. The races would then be scheduled from October to December and Arlington would fill in the middle six months each year with races.

With the decision to build a casino and sports betting facility this year, there is a hole in scheduling from early January until late April, when Arlington hosts their opening day.

According to

The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association executive director, David McCaffrey, commented on the situation by stating: “This is going to be a hardship for Thoroughbred horsemen. But it’s a short-term pain, long-term gain situation, and Hawthorne has pledged to work with us while we get through it.”

According to McCaffrey, construction work will be completed during daylight hours and harness racing will take place at night during the first six months of 2020. This will help to get the casino and sportsbook ready as soon as possible.

Horsemen Benefits:

The shutdown will be an annoyance but, according to McCaffrey, the horsemen will see benefits in the long run. Once the gaming operations are in action, revenues will begin flowing into purse accounts. An additional increase in purse accounts could take place in 2021.

Casino and sports betting will be a reality at the racetrack thanks to new state legislation. The three existing tracks, Hawthorne, Arlington and Fairmount Park, can all add the betting facilities to their existing venues. Churchill Downs, the owner of Arlington, is the only one that has yet to announce any additions. The applications for casino gaming via the race tracks are due by late this month.