COLLINSVILLE, Ill. (CN) – A legal battle involving former Gov. Rod Blagojevich has forced a horseracing track to end its racing season a month early. Fairmount
Park has cut 18 dates because it can’t afford to pay the purse money as it awaits a court ruling on a law that would send money from Illinois casinos to racetracks.
Fairmount was to receive $6.4 million as part of a $76.4 million payout from the Horse Racing Equity Trust Fund Law, enacted in 2006. The law required the state’s four largest casinos to pay 3 percent of their gross daily receipts to the Illinois horseracing industry.
The casinos claimed the law was unconstitutional. A state court ruled against them in 2007, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the ruling on appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal in June 2008.
Undeterred, the casinos filed another suit on June 12 in Chicago Federal Court against Blagojevich, five Illinois horseracing tracks including Fairmount and racetrack owner John Johnston.
The racketeering complaint accuses Blagojevich of using his office to enrich himself, his campaign committee and others by conspiring with the horseracing industry.
The casinos filed a similar suit on June 25 in Cook County Court, seeking an injunction prohibiting the state from transferring the money, which was paid under protest to the horseracing tracks. A hearing on the injunction is scheduled for Aug. 3.
But Fairmount president Brian Zander told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the cash-strapped track couldn’t wait that long.
“We couldn’t take the chance that there would be either a decision that was not favorable to us or that there could conceivably be another delay,” Zander said. Fairmount, 15 miles east of St. Louis, will end its racing season on Aug. 15 instead of Sept. 26.