CHICAGO (CN) – Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz has challenged Illinois’ enactment of four laws which will privatize the state lottery, legalize video poker, and place “non-uniform, disparate” taxes on alcohol, among other things. Wirtz, a beverage distributor, claims the Legislature “improperly combine(d) numerous unrelated matters into a single legislative scheme,” and will use taxpayer money to back private lottery and gambling operations.
Illinois recently launched a $31 billion construction program for roads, public transportation, schools and parks called “Illinois Jobs Now!” which is to be funded by the new programs.
Wirtz sued on behalf of taxpayers in Cook County Court, claiming the legislation is unconstitutional.
He says that selling the lottery to a private company and legalizing video gambling in “thousands of sites across Illinois” will “require considerable expenditures of state funds to operate, control, manage and regulate,” and that the lottery and video gambling plans violate federal regulations.
Wirtz says the new legislation will increase taxes on beer by 22 percent, and increase taxes by 90 percent on wine and liquor. He claims the legislation does “not offer any coherent rationale” for the higher taxes or “the vastly disproportionate increase in the tax on wine and spirits as compared to beer.”
Wirtz likens it to “taxing menthol and non-menthol cigarettes at different rates,” which he calls “irrational.” All proceeds from the new liquor taxes are to be placed in the state’s Capitol Projects Fund, according to the complaint.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bills in July. They include an increase in special pension benefits, candy taxes, bridge and road weight standards, amendments to the Environmental Protection Act and authorization of a study about “the impact of lottery sales on Illinois families.”
Wirtz wants state officials enjoined from using taxpayer money for the private gambling and lottery ventures and from imposing unlawful liquor taxes.
Wirtz is represented by F. Thomas Hecht with Ungaretti & Harris.