Hawthorne Race Course to Host Chicago’s First Casino

  • Preliminary approval comes after IGB ruled Hawthorne “suitable” for subsequent casino licensure
  • The casino will include slots, table games, a new racing feature, and upgraded dining
  • Hawthorne will partner with PointsBet on a “state-of-the-art sportsbook”
  • The plan is to open the casino in late 2021; construction and renovation to start in September


Chicago skyline
Chicago is expected to open its first casino in September 2021 after Hawthorne Race Course was given preliminary approval by the Iillinois Gaming Board. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Ruling allows $400m redevelopment to begin

Hawthorne Race Course is preliminarily approved to host the Chicago-area’s first casino, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) ruled on Thursday. The IGB unanimously determined that the race track’s ownership and other key personnel are “suitable” for casino licensure. Official licensing will come at a later date.

state-of-the-art sportsbook”

Hawthorne stated in a press release that intended developments include slot machines, table games, a new racing feature that includes revamped wagering installations, and dining that showcases “well-known Chicago culinary experiences.” Hawthorne also said that the upgraded facility would include a “state-of-the-art sportsbook” to be rolled out in conjunction with partner PointsBet, Australia’s fastest-growing online sportsbook.

Construction slated for September

Outlining its plans for the casino to launch late 2021, Hawthorne said extensive construction and renovation work is expected to start on the fourth-generation, family-owned race course in September. “We’re going to substantially raise the bar on the Chicagoland casino experience,” said Kevin Kline, Hawthorne’s CEO of gaming. 

we’re going to break the mold”

“As an independent operator, Hawthorne is like a 130-year-old start-up business. We’re going to break the mold on what a regional integrated casino, racing, and entertainment destination can be,” added Kline.

Established in 1891, Hawthorne is the state’s oldest sporting venue and the longest serving legal gambling business in Illinois. When the Hawthorne casino opens, Chicago
will become the largest city in the US to have a casino, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Another score for Illinois gambling

Hawthorne’s approval to host a casino at its location, known as Chicago’s hometown track, comes after the Illinois Senate and House approved several gambling expansion policies in June. The new bill also reworked the annual casino tax structure, lowering the projected tax revenues from Chicago casinos down to $500m from a previously unworkable $850m.

As part of the $45bn Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan, Southern Illinois’ economy received a welcome boost in July 2019 when the new gambling expansion legislation gave Walker’s Bluff in Carterville, Southern Illinois permission to operate a casino.

“It’s really hard to put into context what this means for the very hardworking people of the Illinois racing industry,” said Tim Carey, president and CEO of Hawthorne.

“It means horsemen will be able to keep their businesses and families in Illinois. It means showcasing this historic sport to a new generation of fans,” said Carey.

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