Horse tracks' closures today prompted recent OTB closure

Horse tracks' closures today prompted recent OTB closure

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It really is the end of an era in Illinois today as two long-running horse racing tracks shut down for good.

Maywood Park, in suburban Melrose Park, is closing after 70 years in business. It opened in 1946 as Illinois' first harness racing track.

Balmoral Park, in south suburban Crete, which opened in 1926, also is going out of business. Balmoral also operated the off-track betting parlor in Champaign, which closed last week.

The Champaign OTB opened on April 29, 1992. It operated at several locations, most recently at Jupiter's at the Crossing, 2511 Village Green Place, C.

Although horse racing ended at both tracks last year, they have remained open as sites for inter-track betting. But that ends today, too, according to a notice on the Maywood Park website.

"Because the riverboats won a nearly $80 million judgment (which claimed that Balmoral's and Maywood's president, John Johnston, bowed to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's demand for a $100,000 campaign contribution to benefit the racing industry) obviously Maywood and Balmoral couldn't take care of it, they couldn't sell the property and they couldn't pay the judgment, they ended up closing," said Mickey Ezzo, projects manager for the Illinois Racing Board.

"It is amazing. I've been in horse racing my entire life and spent a lot of time at Maywood and Balmoral, and to watch the OTB network go from zero in 1985 to 28 or 30 OTBs, and now you see this happening, it's pretty devastating," he said.

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