Letter to Editor: Potential Arlington Park Sale an Antitrust Violation

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Arlington | Horsephotos

Dear Editor:

In your article, “Arlington Horsemen Beg for Help,” published Aug. 17, it is was stated by President Michael Campbell of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (ITHA) at the public comment period before the Illinois Racing Board, that Churchill Downs may not sell Arlington Park to the highest bidder in order to avoid competition. Mr. Cambell said, it is “the worst-kept secret in Illinois–and we all know it–is that Churchill Downs and [that corporation's business entity at] Rivers Casino is attempting to eliminate horse racing at Arlington Park because they're afraid that it will turn into a [competing] gaming location.”

I offer no opinion whether the facts asserted by Mr. Cambell are true or not. That said, as an attorney, I would be of the opinion that were it true that Churchill Downs would not sell a racetrack to the highest bidder if it were part of a horse racing operation, this would constitute a serious antitrust violation. This smells of a market boycott so as to prevent or extremely hamper a potential competitor from competing. Ordinarily this would be bad, but in a highly regulated industry such as horse racing that inherently limits market entry by government regulation, this is particularly egregious. Bid rigging, refusals to deal, and unfair attempts to deprive competition of the means to compete are common forms of antitrust violation. It is the betting public that would benefit from the competition that gets ripped off. Would-be competitors and horsemen who lose out on opportunities to race would also suffer real, non-theoretical injuries.

I would remind the public that apart from being a civil violation, antitrust violations can be criminal. By way of example, members of the then mighty General Electric Company were sent to jail in the early 60's for antitrust violations committed in the late 50's. Suffice it to say, what I read was sufficiently disturbing (if the facts turn out to be true) that I hope the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice looks into it. The behavior might violate the Illinois Antitrust Act which, among other things, makes it illegal to “Establish, maintain, use, or attempt to acquire monopoly power over any substantial part of trade or commerce of this State for the purpose of excluding competition.”

One of the more complex issues is standing to sue for these antitrust violations. Certainly the would-be gambling industry competitor that offered the highest bid would certainly seem to have standing to sue.

Rinaldo Del Gallo, III

Attorney at Law

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