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Judge throws out law that would have helped Fairmount Park

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By AP/KWMU

Springfield, Ill. – A law forcing the richest riverboat casinos in Illinois to share their profits with horse racing tracks has been declared unconstitutional.

The law applied to four casinos in northern Illinois but one of the horse tracks that would have benefited is Fairmont Park in Collinsville.

The judge says the law unfairly targets the rich boats while not requiring contributions from five southern Illinois boats.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the legislation into law in May 2006. It requires riverboats making more than $200 million a year to turn over 3% of their gross revenues to a fund to benefit the state's nine horse tracks.

Advocates said the horse racing industry has been financially hurt since the introduction of riverboat gambling in 1990. But the bill couldn't get legislative support until the five downstate boats were removed from consideration.

Will County Associate Circuit Judge Bobbi Petrungaro's opinion, written last week but announced Thursday, noted that nothing in the legislative record showed that the northern Illinois boats had a harsher impact on horse tracks than those in the rest of the state.

The lawsuit was filed by owners of riverboat casinos in Elgin, Aurora, and two in Joliet, against then-state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka and the Illinois Racing Board.

The riverboats also challenged the law on three other constitutional grounds, but the judge ruled in favor of the state on those.

A spokeswoman for the state attorney general, who defended the lawsuit, said a decision on an appeal has not been made. If the state appeals, it would go directly to the Supreme Court.

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