O'Donnell: Churchill Inc. / Arlington proves that it can still put on quite a clown show

  • A license application that would keep open the Arlington Trackside off-track betting parlor and others operated by Arlington Park is being held up by the Illinois Racing Board.

    A license application that would keep open the Arlington Trackside off-track betting parlor and others operated by Arlington Park is being held up by the Illinois Racing Board. Joe Lewnard/Daily Herald file photo

Updated 11/20/2021 8:17 AM

SOMEWHERE ALONG THE LINE, Bunker Bill Carstanjen -- the deadpan slap-schticker running Churchill Downs Inc. -- must have studied "A Little Night Music."

That's the 1973 Stephen Sondheim musical featuring the showstopping "Send in the Clowns."


That's what ol' Bunker Bill did this week when he allowed Anthony "Press Box" Petrillo to go in front of the Illinois Racing Board and ask that the CDI licenses to continue off-track betting locations and advance deposit wagering (ADW) be renewed.

This despite the fact that CDI will lack one key legal ingredient to carry on in The Land o' Winkin' next year -- a host racetrack conducting a live meet.

That could have been Arlington Park, which -- against all odds -- turned profits in both COVID-diminished 2020 and 2021.

INSTEAD, LAW, SCHLAW -- so what?

This is Bunker Bill and CDI in Illinois. Anything goes, like Johnny Depp's "Pirates of the Caribbean," only with pari-mutuel machines and precision-driven analogs.

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The CDI request is as audacious as it is misleading.

The corporation is doing all it can to squeeze the last nickel out of the cadaver once known as thoroughbred racing in Illinois. Despite the fact that CDI is the primary reason the in-state game is on life support.

THE IRB TABLED the CDI "ask" until next month.

The chances of the panel doing the right thing -- telling Churchill to get the schmock out of here -- are not good.

Since its inception in 1933, the Board has generally been peopled by compliant sorts who will flutter any way the wind blows. Over the years, many of its mimosa dilettantes have been challenged when trying to figure which end of the horse eats.

IF CHAIRMAN DAN BIESER and minions want to show a modicum of common sense and appropriate civic guardianship at their December meeting they will:

• Tell Bunker Bill and CDI, "So long, farewell, bye-bye"; and,


• Instruct IRB staff to document and forward an advisory to the Illinois Gaming Board and the office of Gov. J.B. Pritzer detailing how deleterious to the best interests of the taxpayers of Illinois and the state's horse racing industry CDI's endgame at Arlington has been.

IN THE MEANTIME, it was perversely chucklable to see that Carstanjen -- that dedicated slap-schticker -- had an encore event involving AP to present:

A clown show.


FOX Sports dug deep Thursday night prior to kickoff of NE-ATL by playing Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man" as bed music underneath a video montage saluting Bill Belichick. (If Matt Nagy ever gets a similar tribute, the tune has to be the old "American Bandstand" staple "You Talk Too Much.") ...

The Patriots' 25-0 win underscored the vast gap between Belichick and Nagy. Belichick has taken Mac Jones -- the fifth and final QB selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft -- and seamlessly integrated him into a simplified offense. Poor Justin Fields continues under a half-baked HC still trying to convince himself that he's the smartest guy in the stadium. ...

The Bears, for what it's worth, went up as 3-point favorites over jittery Jared Goff and the host Lions on Thanksgiving Day. (For all of its futility, Detroit is 5-4 against the spread this season.) ...

Speaking of NFL speculation, notable Sunday sparkler is Kirk Cousins and the Vikings (+1 ) over visiting Green Bay. (And the pick goes much deeper than the status of Aaron Rodgers' toe.) ...

With plans now set to jump to the Atlantic 10 next year, Loyola has shifted calls of its games to The Ramblers Sports Network, available at loyolaramblers.com. NBA vet Jeff Hagedorn and Chris Sparks are manning the broadcasts. ...

Marvelous that Northern Illinois has won the MAC West and athletic director Sean Frazier extended likable head coach Thomas Hammock through the 2026 season. But now will some friends please tell the one-time Huskies running back to get to work on downscaling his Total Eclipse of the Sun sideline silhouette? ...

George Ofman has resurfaced in the production horizontal on DePaul/WSCR-AM (670) men's basketball games. (The resilient SIU grad also continues with his well-crafted "Tell Me a Story" podcasts.) ...

Three media names in play for the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame next year: Daily Herald alum Toni Ginnetti, Bob Sakamoto and Cheryl Raye-Stout. (All must first agree not to come near David "Chatty" Kaplan's now-mythic 25-minute crowd chloroformer.) ...

And FOX's Pam Oliver -- on her status as senior NFL sideline reporter -- told Richard Deitsch:

"I'm 60 years old. I'm proud of it. I'm not trying to be anything I'm not. I'm a grown-ass woman. To me, that's something to be celebrated."

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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