11/21/2008 12:00AM

Racing aid bill passes in Illinois


The Illinois state legislature has voted to approve legislation that would extend for three years an impact fee imposed on four northern Illinois casinos to benefit racetracks in the state.

The bill passed Wednesday, and has gone to Gov. Rod Blagojevich to be signed into law or vetoed, said Rep. Bob Molaro of Chicago, one of the bill's sponsors.

"It could be a few days or as much as a month" before any action is taken, Molaro said.

Impact-fee legislation became law in June 2006, but no money has yet gone to racing. A legal challenge to the law has reached the federal court level, with the four casinos recently appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court an Illinois Supreme Court denial of their attempt to overturn the law. More than $80 million to date has been deposited into an escrow fund that will be split between racing groups if the Supreme Court declines to hear the casinos' appeal or rules against them. More money would immediately start flowing into escrow if the governor signs the new bill.

The original impact-fee law expired this past June. The new law revives it for three more years, and lawmakers, Molaro said, would also consider making the fee permanent. The casinos have to pay 3 percent of adjusted gross receipts to racing unless casino revenue falls below a certain level; if the state tax on casinos is significantly raised; or if Illinois racetracks become casinos themselves.