Appeals court slashes damages to Illinois riverboat casinos

CHICAGO (AP) — An appellate court has sharply reduced a jury’s damages award to several Illinois casinos from $78 million to $26 million in a case tied to imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals otherwise backed the jury’s findings in a lawsuit brought by riverboat casinos against a racetrack company.

But the three-judge panel concluded in a ruling posted earlier this month that there was insufficient evidence to support the finding of a conspiracy. So it so required the damages award be reduced.

The trial focused on a pay-to-play deal prosecutors said involved Blagojevich and one of the racetrack company’s top executives, John Johnston.

The casinos paid millions in an effective tax imposed by the Blagojevich-era Legislature. The money went to support financially struggling, politically well-connected tracks.