The Illinois Gaming Board has given preliminary approval for Hawthorne Race Course to become the state’s next casino complete with a new sportsbook developed in conjunction with PointsBet. It voted unanimously this week that Hawthorne’s ownership and key personnel are “suitable” for eventual casino licensure.  

Founded in 1891, Hawthorne is the longest running legal gambling business in the state and is Illinois’ oldest sporting venue. In becoming a fully operational casino featuring slot machines, table games and sports betting, Hawthorne aims to transform Illinois horse racing and create a dynamic entertainment experience for casino customers in the Chicagoland area.

“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 the 4th generation family-owned business. 

“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. It means creating a truly unique, first-of-its-kind entertainment experience that won’t exist anywhere else in Illinois.”

In addition to slot machines and table games, Hawthorne’s casino plans include a state-of-the-art sportsbook to be developed in partnership with PointsBet; dining amenities showcasing well-known Chicago culinary experiences; a multi-level parking garage; and a new racing operation with upgraded wagering facilities.  

Major construction and renovation is expected to begin in September with plans for the casino to open in late 2021.

“I think a lot of people may have expected us to simply put some slot machines and tables into our existing facility, but we’re going to substantially raise the bar on the Chicagoland casino experience,” said Kevin Kline, Hawthorne’s CEO of Gaming. 

“As an independent operator, Hawthorne is like a 130 year old start-up business, and we are going to lead with innovation, excitement and a culture that celebrates our customers and empowers our team members every day. We’re going to break the mold on what a regional integrated casino, racing, and entertainment destination can be.”  

Kline, a 25-year veteran of the gaming industry has significant experience in the development and management of ground-up, multi-faceted casino projects and operations across several markets including Chicagoland. He has been leading Hawthorne’s development since September 2019.