In the 1973 movie “The Sting,” a couple of con artists pretend to clean up on horse races that already have had been run.

Now the horse racing industry in Illinois wants to do something similar, except there’s no illegal con involved. It’s still a dodge game, though, a way to bring casino-style gambling to Illinois tracks by calling it something else — horse betting.

We doubt that anybody is fooled.


Here’s how it would work:

Bettors would ante up their money, then be given basic information about a horse race run in the distant past. They would be provided handicapping data on the race, most importantly, but no information that might allow them to identify the actual race. That way they can’t look up the winner online.

Then they would choose the horses they want to bet on and, should they care to, watch a video of the old race.

As a practical matter, to call this horse betting is a fiction. It would be more akin to playing the slots, placing bets with extremely limited information. The horses might just as well be cherries, oranges and lemons.

Two Illinois tracks are seeking permission from the Illinois Racing Board to offer “historical horse racing” to pump up their bottom lines, which could use it. Horse tracks are struggling to survive as other forms of legal gambling have spread throughout the state.

The Racing Board is reviewing the requests, first by investigating whether it even has legal authority to give approval.

We don’t know if this is such a bad idea. We just think it should be evaluated for what it really is — casino-style gambling.

“Historical horse racing” is not a form of betting on the horses, dead or alive.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.


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