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Racing Bd. v. Arlington Park Race Track Corp.

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 12, 1979.

ILLINOIS RACING BOARD, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

ARLINGTON PARK THOROUGHBRED RACE TRACK CORPORATION ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES. — (PYRAMID TROTTING ASSOCIATION, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.)



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOSEPH M. WOSIK, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MCNAMARA DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This matter arises from an interpleader action filed by the Illinois Racing Board and involves an interpretation of a part of the Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975 which created the Illinois Race Track Improvement Fund. (See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 8, pars. 37-1 through 37-51.) The trial court held, in paragraph 1 of its order, that the Improvement Fund is not unitary in nature, but is a divisible fund comprised of the accounts established for the various racing licensees conducting race meetings. No appeal has been taken from that portion of the order, and all the parties apparently agree with the holding. The trial court held, in paragraph 2 of its order, that the monies deposited in the accounts of the licensees shall be distributed from the Improvement Fund for uses specified in the statute and only upon application of the legal or beneficial owner of the track or tracks where such monies were generated. Pyramid Trotting Association, Inc., appeals from that portion of the order limiting the application and use of the fund to the particular race track where the monies were generated. Pyramid is a former racing licensee which does not own a race track. It formerly conducted race meetings as a tenant of a race track owner and accumulated $329,485.73 in its Improvement Fund account. Pyramid seeks to use that fund at any race track in the State as directed by Pyramid and approved by the Board. The Board has not filed an appearance or a brief in this court.

The Act of 1975 created the improvement fund directing the Board to use the fund to aid tracks in improving their facilities. It provided that monies should be distributed to the tracks for the erection, improvement or acquisition of seating stands, buildings, other structures, or land. Under the Act, the improvement fund was created by the organizational licensees of noncharitable racing meetings depositing one-half of the total breakage with the State Treasurer in an account established for each organization licensee. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 8, pars. 37-28(g), 37-32(b).) Breakage is the odd cents exceeding a multiple of $.10 payable as winnings for each dollar wagered. (See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 8, par. 37-3.02.) Prior to the Act of 1975, each organizational licensee retained one-half of the breakage. Both before and under the Act of 1975, the other half of the breakage returns to the State.

In April 1978, the Board filed the present interpleader action, naming as defendants 29 organization licensees which had conducted race meetings since the Act of 1975 became effective. The action stated that certain of the defendants had requested disbursements, and that one or more of the defendants were maintaining that amounts in their accounts were to be disbursed only upon their request and for their individual use. The Board further stated that it was threatened with lawsuits regarding the fund and requested a judicial determination of the rights of the defendants to the fund.

Several defendants filed answers. Only Pyramid requested that the funds deposited in an account established for an organization licensee be distributed for use only at such race track or tracks as directed for by that licensee and approved by the Board. The other defendants who filed answers either requested that monies in the fund be distributed only upon application of the owner of the track where such funds were generated and for use at that track, or that the defendant had no interest and made no claim to the fund. The trial court decided the matter on the pleadings after hearing argument, and entered the order in question.

The Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975 provides in pertinent part:

"(a) There is hereby created in the State Treasury a fund to be known as the Illinois Race Track Improvement Fund, referred to in this Section as the Fund, to consist of monies paid into it pursuant to Section 28 [ch. 8, 37-28]. Monies credited to the Fund shall be distributed by the Treasurer on order of the Board.

(b) As provided in Section 28, 50% of the breakage of each meeting except for charity racing meetings shall be collected by the Department of Revenue and deposited with the State Treasurer in an account established for each organization licensee who held such meeting at any track in a given year.

(c) The Racing Board shall use this Fund to aid tracks in improving their facilities.

(d) Monies shall be distributed from the Fund to tracks for the cost of erection, improving or acquisition of seating stands, buildings or other structures, ground or track, for the necessary purchase or required restoration of depreciable property and equipment used in the operation of a race track, or for the payment of the cost of amortization of debt contracted with the approval of the Board for any or all such purposes.

(e) The Board shall promulgate procedural rules and regulations governing information required, deadlines for filing, and types of application forms to be observed by the tracks seeking monies from the Fund.

(f) The Fund shall exist until January 1, 1996. At that time all monies remaining in the Fund shall revert to the General Revenue Fund of the State unless at the end of this 20 year term the General Assembly believes the need for such a Fund still exists and continues the Fund or creates a new one from the monies of the Fund here established.

(g) The Board shall keep accurate records of monies deposited in each account for each licensee. If in any given year a track does not tender any application for monies from the Fund or tenders an application which is not in accordance with the provisions of this Section, the Department of Revenue shall allow such unexpended monies to remain in the account for utilization at a later date in accordance with the provisions of subsections (c) through (e)" Ill. Rev. Stat. 1978 Supp., ch. 8, par. 37-32.

Pyramid contends on appeal that the trial court erred in resorting to rules of statutory construction in determining the rights of the parties to the fund because the statute plainly and unambiguously vested the authority to govern the disposition of the monies in the fund with the organization licensee. Pyramid argues that since the separate accounts in the fund were established in the name of each licensee, the ...


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