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Illinois horse tracks say more gambling can stop ‘downward spiral’

With a red pen in hand, Chrissy Bialek flips through the program on opening weekend of the thoroughbred racing season at Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero.
Her horseshoe-shaped ring catches the light from the televisions above the bar as their screens show clips from races across the country. Bialek, of Chicago, has been coming to Hawthorne for as long as she can remember.
“My dad would bring me out here when I was just in diapers,” said Bialek, who could spout off information on horses, trainers and jockeys by age 9. She started betting the day she turned 18.
For Bialek, horse racing isn’t about the money. It’s about the atmosphere, the people and the horses. But she has noticed the purses — the amounts awarded to the winner — are plummeting.
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