11/09/2017 6:04PM

Illinois horsemen sue state over recapture payments

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Three Illinois horsemen’s groups have filed a lawsuit with the circuit court of Cook County seeking to compel the Illinois legislature to fund an $11 million 2016 recapture payment debited this year from racing purse accounts in the state.

The lawsuit was filed Nov. 1 by the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, and the Illinois Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, and names Illinois state comptroller Susan Mendoza as the defendant.

The suit asks that the court force the state to direct $11,020,247 from the general revenue fund to the Department of Agriculture and then release it to purse accounts at Arlington, Hawthorne, and Fairmount Park. Illinois racetracks since 1995 have taken more than $272 million from purse accounts because of the so-called recapture law that was passed with the advent of full-card simulcasting in Illinois. The recapture law compensated track operators for local betting handle that would migrate from live-racing to simulcast signals.

Because of concerns over purse levels, the law was amended in 1999 to say the Illinois General Assemble “shall appropriate money from the General Revenue Fund to the Department of Agriculture and repay the purse accounts the money deducted by track operators." The state did so for several years, but facing growing budgetary problems, the General Assembly in 2003 stopped funding recapture even as track operators continued annual deductions set by a formula in the 1995 law.

The state will be served the lawsuit late this week or early next week, and once served has 30 days to either respond or request an extension of 30 to 45 days. State’s attorneys will certainly file a motion to dismiss the suit, after which horsemen’s groups have 30 days to respond. In two to four months, the parties should come before a judge, who will decide whether to dismiss the suit or allow it to go forward.