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Gillilan v. Illinois Racing Board

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 22, 1980.

RAY A. GILLILAN, D/B/A FOX FIELDS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

ILLINOIS RACING BOARD ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. JOHN A. KRAUSE, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE UNVERZAGT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This appeal arises from the denial of plaintiff's application for a license to conduct a racing meet at Fox Fields (formerly known as Aurora Downs) during 1980.

After being out of operation for some years, the race track formerly known as Aurora Downs was acquired by the plaintiff, Ray A. Gillilan, in 1978. In July 1979, he applied for a license to operate a harness racing meet during 75 days of the 1980 racing season, being 52 Sundays and 23 other weekend days. (Later, this was amended to Sunday dates only.)

The Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 8, par. 37-1 et seq.) provides for the creation of a board of seven members to administer the Act, giving them the power to issue licenses for race meetings, which cannot be held without such a license. The board has the power to allot the dates on which or during which a race meet may be held to the various applicants and provides (under section 19(a)(1)) that no license may be granted "to any person at any place within 45 miles of any other place licensed by the Board to hold a race meeting on the same date during the same hours * * *." A further provision of section 19(a)(4) states that a license will not be granted "to any person who does not at the time of application for the organization license own or have a contract or lease for the possession of a finished race track suitable for the type of racing intended to be held by the applicant and for the accommodation of the public."

These provisions are pertinent because Fox Fields Racing Association, Inc. (which is the present name of the track formerly known as Aurora Downs) was within 45 miles of other licensed race tracks and in September of 1979, when Gillilan applied for a license, his track needed certain repairs and improvements before it could be used for racing.

Hearings were held by the board in September 1979, on the applications of various race track organizations which had applied for licenses to race. These were not the usual administrative hearings in that the participation of the applicant or his counsel was restricted to the answering of questions raised by the board. Of all the applicants only two — Fox Fields and Cahokia Downs — were rejected, and Cahokia Downs' rejection was based on admitted financial difficulties. As to Gillilan's application for racing dates for Fox Fields, this was rejected as part of a general order — not specifically — by simply failing to allot any dates to Fox Fields for the year 1980, without specific mention of Fox Fields or Ray Gillilan. Prior to the formal order allotting racing dates for 1980, Gillilan appeared before the board on September 24, 1979, and was questioned as to his financial worth and background and the physical condition of the race track. At this session of the board questions were asked of him and to supplement his answers to such questions he was allowed to produce witnesses as to the physical condition of the race track and its prospects for the future. Questions as to his financial background were answered by Ray Gillilan personally. No decision as to his application was announced at that time.

On October 29, 1979, Gillilan, not having received any word from the board on his application, filed a second application in which he stated that certain improvements lacking at the time of the original application had been accomplished. This application was not considered by the board. On November 10, 1979, the board held an emergency meeting and rejected the second application on the ground of "administrative res judicata" — that is, that it was the same application that had been considered in September. On November 15, 1979, the board issued its general order including its finding on all the applications for racing dates which had been submitted by various organizations in Illinois. In this order the board made various findings of fact as to several racing organizations, including Fox Fields, indicating that as to that organization there were certain deficiencies in its track and public facilities and raising some questions as to Gillilan's financial integrity. The board's decision to disallow Gillilan's application, however, was not specific — the decision to do so was simply indicated by not allotting any racing dates to Fox Fields.

In January 1980, a third application for racing dates for Fox Fields was presented to the board, this time in the name of Fox Fields, a corporation. It asked only for 44 Sundays of racing. This application was also denied in an order in which the board repeated the objection raised as to the second application — that "although cloaked in the form of a corporation, it does not represent a new application for racing dates. Rather it is the same people, applying for the same racing dates, at the same racing facility as twice previously denied by the board." However, while this language would seem to indicate that "administrative res judicata" was again the basis for the denial, the actual ground of this order apparently is that the dates requested "have already been allotted." This conclusion was apparently based on the board's opinion that Sundays falling within the beginning and ending dates of a licensed race meeting are included within the time allotted to that race meeting, and therefore are no longer open.

Following the denial of the second application without a hearing, Gillilan filed a complaint for administrative review of the board's decision. Certain competing race track organizations sought permission, which was granted, to intervene in the action. The third application for racing dates was denied while the administrative review action as to the second application was pending.

• 1 After reviewing the record of the proceedings before the Illinois Racing Board and considering the briefs and arguments of both parties and the intervenors, the circuit court affirmed the denial of the plaintiff's three applications for racing dates. In this appeal from the circuit court's judgment upholding the board, the plaintiff contends:

(1) That the board's decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence;

(2) That the denial of the application filed October 29, 1979, and that filed January 30, 1980, was in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Illinois Horse Racing Act, and

(3) That the Illinois Horse Racing Act itself is unconstitutional in failing to set reasonably definite standards for the exercise of the board's discretion.

We reject at the outset the contention that the Illinois Horse Racing Act is unconstitutional because in giving consideration to "financial integrity" as a standard for granting an application to race, it fails to define that term and leaves a finding as to financial integrity to the discretion of the board. In view of the ramifications and possible financial involvements of various kinds by a horse track organization, we think this general term is not inappropriate. The board found that Gillilan lacked sufficient capital "with which to organize, promote and operate a successful race meet at Aurora Downs." In view of the encumbrances on the property and the necessary prospective outlays to put it into good operating condition which were disclosed by Gillilan at the time of the application, we do not think it was against the manifest weight of the evidence for the board to find that Gillilan did not meet this criterion. In view of the involved nature of the racing industry and its relation to the public, the term "financial integrity" must be given a broad meaning and its ...


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