Those who wish to wager legally in Peoria on horse races have an in-town option for the first time in almost nine years.
Club Peoria opened last week at Landmark Recreation Center, just in time for the Kentucky Derby, which is set for Saturday. Hawthorne Race Course in suburban Chicago operates the new facility.
The off-track-betting parlor has been incorporated with Bullpen Bar & Grill in Landmark, 3225 N. Dries Lane. Races are to be simulcast from Hawthorne, where live harness racing resumes Friday night, and from tracks around the country and world.
The restaurant is open for business as usual, but 90 high-definition televisions and simulcast centers have been installed as part of a remodeling, according to a Hawthorne news release.
"This is a location that we have looked at for some time, as there was a definite void in the area for those wanting to wager on horses," stated John Walsh, the Hawthorne assistant general manager. "When we were able to look closer at the location within the Landmark Recreation Center, it was a perfect fit."
It should be.
Off-track betting first came to Landmark in 1987. At first, it was a hit. More than $25 million was wagered there in 1990, according to this story.
But the establishment of riverboat gambling in Illinois, and the Par-A-Dice casino in the Peoria area, led to a diminishing of the horse-racing handle.
The Landmark OTB closed in 1995, four years after the Par-A-Dice opened. Another OTB returned to Landmark in 2000 but closed nine years later.
“There just hasn’t been enough traffic at the OTB parlor to warrant staying open. It’s been incurring losses for many years. I really don’t think there’s much future there. It’s a dying situation,” Bill Lanzotti, then the Landmark acting general manager, said at the time.
All in the Illinois horse-racing world doesn't appear stable. Fairmount Park in Collinsville was to begin a relatively abbreviated season Tuesday, but that might be cut even shorter if the track can't offer video gambling.
A bill that would allow such machines at racetracks is stalled in the General Assembly. Revenues from video gambling might help racetracks remain in business.
Until last week, the closest OTB to Peoria was a Hawthorne-operated facility in Normal. Hawthorne operates 10 OTBs. All but two are located in the Chicago area.
"After nearly 10 years away from the Downtown Peoria scene, off-track wagering has returned with the opening of Club Peoria," the Hawthorne news release stated.
Landmark is located in Central Peoria, but we all look the same to Chicagoans, anyway.
The Peoria OTB is to open at 11 a.m. daily, earlier on Derby day and for other Triple Crown races and big events, including the Breeders' Cup.