Illinois Governor Signs Racing Aid Bill

Legislation to aid racing has been signed by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich Dec. 15 signed legislation that extends the diversion to horse racing of 3% of revenue from the state's four highest-grossing riverboat casinos. The provision is estimated to be worth as much as $30 million a year, and by law is divided 60% for purses and 40% for tracks.

The Illinois General Assembly had passed the measure earlier. The subsidy has been on the books for three years but expired during 2008. The new legislation would extend it through mid-2011.

Racing interests have yet to see any actual benefit from the original legislation because legal action by the casinos has kept the money in escrow. That litigation, however, has almost run its course and payment of the accumulated money is expected in 2009.

The subsidy will end if racetracks win the right to operate slot machines, or when a 10th riverboat casino begins paying state taxes. Fifteen percent of the revenue from the 10th casino is earmarked for racing – an amount that could be double the current subsidy.

Blagojevich was arrested the week of Dec. 7 on federal charges of conspiracy and soliciting bribes. he is accused of trying to sell the Senate seat of Barack Obama, president-elect of the United States. The Illinois legislature has attempted to impeach Blagojevich.