They won't be seeing it anytime soon, but Illinois racetracks and horse owners each can expect about $10 million a year as their cut of a Cook County riverboat casino.
There has been speculation - sometimes wild speculation - since the 1999 revision of Illinois gaming and racing laws about how much racing can expect as its 15 percent share of the adjusted gross annual revenue from the boat. The fiscal 2002 Illinois budget presented by Gov. George Ryan on Feb. 21 provides a semi-official answer: $20 million, split 50/50 between purses and tracks.
"I think this would be a reasonable estimate, assuming a full year of operation at the Rosemont site," said Illinois Racing Board Deputy Director Marc Laino, explaining the budget item.
Laino said the IRB asked the Legislature to appropriate $20 million from the Horse Racing Equity Fund -- a fiscal repository for racing's share of the casino revenue -- to cover any remote chance the boat could begin operations in the coming fiscal year. Without an appropriation, the IRB would lack the statutory authority to distribute money if any is available.
"It's an unlikely prospect," Laino admitted.
Construction of the boat has been stalled for nearly two years, first by lawsuits, then by the Illinois Gaming Board's decision not to approve the current ownership. That decision currently is under appeal.