Owners of the Casino Queen say they would like to buy Fairmount Park, contingent upon a deal to allow slot machine gaming at horse tracks being passed by the Illinois Legislature.
The move would also require regulatory approval by the Illinois Gaming Board.
The casino, located in East St. Lous, and the horse track, located in Collinsville, are longtime competitors for area gambling dollars and have been at odds over previous proposals in the General Assembly to allow slot machines at tracks.
“We needed to find a solution that bolstered the racetrack for the future without compromising the operations of the Casino Queen, and this acquisition affords us the opportunity to do just that,” said Jeff Watson, president and general manager of the Casino Queen. “This agreement sets in motion our goal of sustaining and growing good-paying jobs and employee benefits at both facilities.”
Watson said the deal is the best way for both businesses to survive.
“Through this acquisition, the racetrack gets the opportunity to add the slots that are vital to its long-term existence, and Casino Queen can expand its operations while affording track workers the opportunity to participate in an employee-owned company,” Watson said. “Casino Queen and Fairmount Park are grateful for our local legislators encouraging the parties to come together to create continued economic opportunities for Southwestern Illinois.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“This agreement recognizes a two-step process,” Watson said. “The first step was reaching an agreement and the second step is working with our legislators to craft a gaming bill that ensures the success of both companies while generating much-needed tax revenue for the state of Illinois and local communities.”
Fairmount Park President Brian Zander said he’s excited about the future if the deal goes through.
“We recognized the importance of reaching a mutually beneficial agreement, and after months of negotiations, we believe the decision to become a part of the Casino Queen family is in the best interest of all parties,” Zander said. “It provides job security for employees at the track, as well as the casino, while opening the door for additional investment and employment opportunities at both facilities. We believe we can attract additional customers with a unique gaming experience at Fairmount Park.
Zander said the deal accomplishes the main goal of owners who bought the track 15 years ago.
“When the current ownership group became involved with Fairmount Park in 2000, our main priority was the preservation and future growth of the horse racing industry in Southern Illinois and the thousands of jobs associated with it,” Zander said. “We believe that this agreement will help achieve that goal."
Under the agreement, Fairmount Park would be operated as a subsidiary of CQ Holdings, Inc., parent company of the Casino Queen, the only employee-owned casino in the country. The existing management at Fairmount Park would remain in place.
State Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, said he is hopeful legislation can be passed to complete the deal.
“I’m delighted to hear that an agreement has been reached. It represents a win-win for both parties and their local communities. I am pleased both sides were able to think beyond their individual circumstances and work toward a solution that should allow both entities to remain profitable and provide much-needed jobs for our area,” Clayborne said.
Illinois State Representative Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, also supports the proposal.
“This is excellent news for the city of Collinsville and the 1,400 jobs Fairmount Park supports directly and indirectly in the metro-east,” Kay said in a released statement. “Horse racing has been a part of the metro-east for 90 years. I’m optimistic the agreement between Fairmount Park and the Casino Queen will help keep the horse racing industry alive and well throughout Illinois for generations. Now it’s time for the legislature to get the ball rolling to help Fairmount Park secure the proposal.”