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A Higher-Stakes Game

30 June 2000

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS -- June 30, 2000 – As reported by the Chicago Daily Herald: "… the six-county area's prominence in the national gambling scene increased last week when Churchill Downs Inc. (Nasdaq:CHDN - news) and its Kentucky Derby mystique reached terms to acquire Arlington International Racecourse. What's more, the Illinois Gaming Board today is expected to tackle two issues that could take the region's gaming profile even higher.

"The first is Emerald Casino's request to resume construction of its lawsuit-entangled gambling barge in Rosemont. The second is one-time Las Vegas casino manager Jack Binion's right to invest in Joliet's Empress Casino, which his Horseshoe Gaming company late last year bought for $609 million with another Empress riverboat in Indiana.

"…Churchill CEO and President Thomas H. Meeker envisions a high-profile Breeders' Cup race as a realistic possibility in the Northwest suburbs before 2005. The company's strategy, executives said, also includes telephone and Internet wagering to make placing bets easier.

"In Kentucky, Churchill already has a telephone wagering system augmented by racing information online, said Karl F. Schmitt Jr., the company's senior vice president of communications.

"…Binion's presence in Illinois - he recently relocated his corporate headquarters from Las Vegas to Joliet - also has caused a stir. Gaming board regulators in November approved the sale of Empress to Horseshoe despite staff questions about Binion's business dealings.

"…Whether its Binion, Emerald or Churchill, anti-gambling activists are crying foul about the state's gambling landscape. The Rev. Tom Grey, who heads the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, worries state lawmakers will be swayed by campaign contributions from the racing and casino industries and expand gambling in Illinois.

"Possibilities include shifting casino licenses from downstate to the Chicago area, ending a state cap on the number of slot machines and gaming tables casinos can have, and allowing telephone and/or Internet wagering in Illinois.

"Gaming industry experts doubt radical changes will come quickly, but they don't rule out incremental ones. Lawmakers in Illinois and other states, they say, rationalize gambling by saying it contributes significant amounts to state coffers.

"Illinois, for example, collected nearly $329 million from casinos last year, while communities took in more than $90 million from them..."

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