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Jury awards $26.3M in damages to 4 Illinois riverboat casinos in Blagojevich-linked case

A jury has found a racetrack owner liable in a civil racketeering case that involved actions during Rod Blagojevich’s time as Illinois governor.

The jury in federal district court in Chicago on Monday awarded $26.3 million in damages to four Illinois riverboat casinos. The damages are tripled because the case fell under the civil racketeering statute, making the recovery more than $78 million.

The trial involved a pay-to-play deal allegedly involving the now-imprisoned Blagojevich and John Johnston, a member of the Illinois racetrack industry.

Illinois casinos sued to recover millions of dollars from several tracks. The casinos paid millions in an effective tax imposed by the Blagojevich-era Legislature. The money was 3 percent of the casinos’ adjusted gross revenue and it went to the financially struggling but politically well-connected tracks.