Stall apps. for 2015 are available in the H.B.P.A. office.
Lawsuit leaves horse tracks facing bankruptcy, attorney says
Facing a $78 million lawsuit judgment for involvement in an extortion scandal involving former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Illinois’ only two pari-mutuel standardbred tracks are prepared to file for bankruptcy to continue operations in 2015, their attorney told the Illinois Racing Board on Tuesday
The judgment, handed down last week by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, ordered Balmoral Racing Club and Maywood Park Trotting Association to pay a total of $77.8 million to four of the state’s riverboat casinos—Empress Casino in Joliet, Harrah’s Casino in Joliet, Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin and Hollywood Casino in Aurora.
In addition, in reversing a district court decision in August, the court ordered Balmoral president/Maywood vice-president John Johnston to pay the casinos $1 million each in punitive damages.
The ruling stems from a federal racketeering suit that claims that Johnston acquiesced to Blagojevich’s request for a $100,000 campaign contribution in return for signing 2008 legislation to benefit Balmoral, Maywood and the state’s three thoroughbred tracks, Arlington International Racecourse, Hawthorne Race Course and Balmoral Park.
However, the contribution was never made.
The bill that Blagojevich signed extended a 3 percent adjusted gross revenue impact fee that was assessed against the four casinos, which were the most profitable in the state at the time, to compensate the state’s racetracks for the financial losses they incurred when the casinos were permitted dockside gaming in 1999. The impact fee was levied in 2006 but expired in 2008.
Attorney William McKenna, who is representing the Johnston family — the principal owner of Balmoral and Maywood — told the Racing Board that his clients intend to appeal the case but in the meantime they have an automatic 14-day stay of judgment during which time they will attempt to settle with the four casinos.
If they fail to come to terms on a settlement, Balmoral Racing Club and Maywood Park Trotting Association will file for bankruptcy, most likely on Christmas eve, to protect against property seizure and disruption in daily operations, McKenna said.
“The focus through the next series of months and probably throughout the year will be to see if a settlement can be reached with the plaintiffs and, if not, what will be the plan of reorganizations,” McKenna testified.
Neil Milbert is a freelance writer
A couple of reminders: The annual backside Christmas party starts at 3pm on Thursday in the First Turn Café. We have 180 people signed up to see Santa and get their special gift for the kids as well as a wonderful dinner for everyone. See you there. Merry Christmas!
Also remember Saturday will be the last day of training. The track will be closed for two weeks and will re-open Monday January 5th
We have reached an agreement with management that will allow us to have the use of the racetrack this winter. We will stop on track training on December 21st and be down for two weeks. We will then resume training on Monday January 5th. There are several details that you should be aware of. Please stop by the office for a complete schedule of days and dates going forward. I think you’ll find this to be a huge benefit to our owners and trainers as well as backside workers.
Judge awards damages to Illinois riverboat casino
Posted Dec. 8, 2014 @ 8:41 pm
CHICAGO — A jury has found a racetrack owner liable in a civil racketeering case that involved actions during Rod Blagojevich’s time as Illinois governor.
The jury in federal district court in Chicago on Monday awarded $26.3 million in damages to four Illinois riverboat casinos. The damages are tripled because the case fell under the civil racketeering statute, making the recovery more than $78 million.
The trial involved a pay-to-play deal allegedly involving the now-imprisoned Blagojevich and John Johnston, a member of the Illinois racetrack industry.
Illinois casinos sued to recover millions of dollars from several tracks. The casinos paid millions in an effective tax imposed by the Blagojevich-era legislature. The money was 3 percent of the casinos’ adjusted gross revenue and it went to the financially struggling but politically well-connected tracks.
The House will adjourn at the end of business today and won’t come back until the new legislators take their seats. This means that any hope of legislation being passed during a lame duck session is off the table. So, our quest for any gaming bill that would help the industry will begin after January 14 with a new Governor in office. Rest assured that all representatives of the industry are more that ready to accept the challenge of getting a bill passed in the up coming session that will save and assure the future of horse racing in Illinois.
Attention horsemen on the backside. Free clothing will be given out first thing Monday morning in the Horsemen’s lounge. Please pass this info. to the break stretch workers.
The sign up sheet for Christmas gifts for the kids is in the H.B.P.A. office. Christmas dinner with Santa will be Thursday December 18th in the First Turn Café.
CHICAGO, IL – After 31 years in public service, Illinois Racing Board Executive Director Marc Laino has announced he will retire at the end of the year. Marc has been with the IRB for 28 years, serving as Executive Director for 12 years.
IRB Chairman William Berry praised his work with the Board. “Upon my appointment as Chairman of the Illinois Racing Board, I was immediately impressed by the professionalism and leadership exhibited by Marc Laino as Executive Director,” Berry said. “During my tenure as Chairman, not only has my appreciation for those qualities expanded, but I have become aware of the high esteem with which Marc Laino was held not only by those participating in Illinois horse racing, but those participating in horse racing throughout the country. As Chairman of the Illinois Racing Board, I congratulate Marc Laino on his 31 years of service.”
“It has been an honor and privilege to work for the Illinois Racing Board, representing the citizens of Illinois and serving the interests of the Illinois racing industry,” Laino said. “I have been fortunate to have worked alongside amazingly talented people on the Board, on staff, and throughout the racing industry.”
Marc said after retiring from the state in January, he plans to pursue other interests and opportunities as well as spend more time with family and friends.
Patricia Ryan nee Dedins, 59, loving mother of Anthony (Rosie) Dedins, cherished daughter of the late Anthony and late Mary Dedins, dear sister of Mary Ellen (Joseph) Cassano, fond aunt of Joseph (Melissa) Cassano, Louis (Randi) Cassano, Deena Cassano and Julie Webb. Memorial Visitation will be Wednesday, November 5th. from 4-8 P.M. at Suburban Family Funeral Home 5940 W. 35th. St. (Corner of 35th. St. & Austin) Cicero. Cremation was private.
Patti, Thanks for all you did for the horsemen over the years. You’ll be missed.
Winter Training and Stabling Schedule
In an effort to minimize training expense, Management and the H.B.P.A. Board of Directors have agreed to the following downtime schedule for this winter. In addition, the H.B.P.A. office will be open on a limited schedule in an effort to reduce costs. A schedule will be posted.
The racetrack will be closed for training from December 19th until February 1st.
During this time horses will be allowed to remain on the grounds and the dorms will remain occupied.
Training will resume on Monday February 2nd. Racing will start earlier next year (March 24).2015 calendars are available in the H.B.P.A. office.