Illinois Casinos Scramble to Preserve $89.2M

     CHICAGO (CN) – Four Illinois casinos say ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich swindled them out of $89.2 million, and they’re demanding that state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias safeguard the money until their $267 million lawsuit is settled.

     Empress Casino Joliet, Harrah’s Casino-Joliet, Hollywood Casino-Aurora and the Grand Victoria Casino sued Blagojevich, his campaign fund, five horse tracks and track owner John Johnston in Cook County Court, accusing them of operating a racketeering conspiracy.
     The casinos say Blagojevich fraudulently signed the Illinois 2006 and 2008 “Racing Acts,” which grant 3 percent of the casinos’ adjusted gross receipts to the state horse tracks in exchange for contributions to Blagojevich’s campaign, “Friends of Blagojevich.”
     According to the complaint, “Johnston paid Blagojevich $125,000 within a month of the 2006 Racing Act.”
     The casinos paid $89.2 million under protest, saying the Acts were a form of political back-scratching and mirrored the allegations in Blagojevich’s indictment, “which in turn is based in part on now-public wiretap recordings in which Blagojevich discusses an agreement with Johnston to secure enactment of the 2008 Racing Act in exchange for a payment of $100,000.”
     The so-called “protest funds” are currently being held by the Illinois State Treasury, though the casinos seek a formal declaration that the Treasury will protect the money “until final adjudication of the RICO/construction trust litigation and until the rights of [the casinos] and the horse tracks in the disputed funds are finally determined,” under the Protest Monies Act.
     The casinos fear that if the disputed money is disbursed to Illinois horse tracks as intended, it “will be gone forever,” because the tracks will never be “positioned to repay such a large amount,” the lawsuit claims.
     The casinos have requested a temporary restraining order and injunction in order to preserve the funds. They are represented by Robert Andalman of Loeb & Loeb.

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