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Mayor Can Tolerate Slots; Fears Track Closure

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (STMW) — Arlington Heights Village President Arlene Mulder is so worried that Arlington Park might close that she “can tolerate” slot machines at the track, she said Thursday.

Interviewed after speaking at a Rotary meeting Thursday, Mulder all but committed to supporting the expansion of gambling at the track.

And she feels the attitude of many in the village has softened on this issue.

During her annual “state of the village” address Mulder urged the Rotarians to contact their legislators and ask them to “do what they can to allow Arlington Park to have other revenue streams so they can compete.”

Five potential buyers for the Sheraton Chicago Northwest, the hotel next to the track that closed in 2009, have shown interest, she said. But they seem to be waiting to learn what happens with the track.

Asked what businesses and residents should tell their legislators, Mulder said: “I hope that they allow the racetrack to create an additional revenue stream that could help them compete with neighboring states, primarily Indiana.”

She said that revenue stream needs to be sustainable and that tracks need to be given a level playing field with the casinos in order to keep horse racing alive.

She added that Arlington Park has been a good neighbor and self-manager.

“Whatever Arlington Park has done they’ve done very well,” Mulder said.

Mulder fears this could be Arlington Park’s last season of racing. Track officials are on record as saying slot machines are necessary to keep the purses competitive.

Arlington Heights residents want Arlington Park to stay open because it is unique and makes the community unique, and nongamblers like herself want to celebrate at the track on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or grandpa’s birthday, she said.

“It will be a big shock to our residents should we lose that track and the notoriety it brings to our village,” Mulder said.

“People have to let their legislators know one of the most significant landmarks in the community is being threatened. That means tourism and jobs for seniors and kids in the summer.”

In this economy there would not be developers clamoring for the land, which is over 300 acres, said the mayor.

If racetracks got the money that laws require casinos to share with them, that would help, too, she said, reminding her audience that legislation to that effect has passed but is being fought by casinos in court.

The closing of the Sheraton Chicago Northwest in late 2009 costs the village $400,000 annually in taxes that will not be recouped if the track closes, she said.

The Arlington Heights Village Board has been adamant that the state legislature should not allow slots at the track without approval from village authorities because Arlington Heights is a home rule.

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