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Blagojevich "shenanigans" cited in casino case decision

Eight-year old legal battle renewed

Published: Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 5:07 p.m. CDT

An eight-year-old legal battle over the redistribution of casino revenues to the horse racing industry gained new life last week when a federal appeals court reinstated the lawsuit.

"This case requires us once again to decide whether some shenanigans in the Illinois General Assembly and governor's office crossed the line from the merely unseemly to the unlawful," states the decision from the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Chicago-based court reinstated a lawsuit that otherwise was lost by four Chicago-area casinos, including Hollywood Joliet and Harrah's Joliet.

The lawsuit contends that racetrack owners bribed imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to push through legislation that transferred 3 percent of the revenue from the four casinos in Illinois to the racetracks.

The litigation started in Will County in 2006, when the casinos sued to block the legislation. The case was won in a Will County court, but was later lost in higher courts. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the tax. The casinos attempted to bring the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to take the case.

A second lawsuit was initiated after Blagojevich was arrested in 2008. A taped telephone conversation released after the arrest suggested the former governor solicited a $100,000 campaign contribution from a racetrack executive before signing a bill that year that renewed the tax on casinos.

The casinos in the second lawsuit alleged they had become victims of racketeering.

It was the second lawsuit reinstated by the appellate court, which found the casinos had a legal basis for bringing a case under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

The same court is still considering Blagojevich's appeal of his corruption convictions. Jurors convicted him on 18 counts. Three related to his bid to extort a racetrack executive for a donation. Blagojevich is currently serving a 14-year prison term.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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