BISMARCK-A resolution has not yet come in a long-running bankruptcy case involving an off-track horse race wagering company despite the North Dakota Legislature setting aside nearly $16 million to resolve the issue earlier this year.
Susan Bala, sole shareholder of Racing Services Inc., objected to a settlement agreement reached with the state of North Dakota in May, calling it "not fair and equitable because it results in a recovery which is lower than the amount that would likely be recovered if this matter were litigated." Kip Kaler, the bankruptcy trustee in the case, asked the court to approve an agreement that would require the state to pay $15,872,000, an amount lawmakers set aside in a budget bill that Gov. Doug Burgum signed in late April.
"We do think that the amount should be examined," Bala said in an interview this week. She said it would be enough to cover the principal but amounts to "a deep discount on the interest."
RSI was forced into receivership during an investigation of a criminal case accusing Bala and the company of illegal betting and fraud. She was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to two years and three months in prison. Her convictions were later overturned by an appeals court, and she was released in 2007 after serving about 17 months.
RSI filed for bankruptcy in 2004, but a federal judge said in 2014 that the state wasn't authorized to collect taxes on account wagering "during the time period in question," which was held up by an appeals court, according to a summary of the case included in the settlement agreement. The issue was sent back to bankruptcy court to determine how much the state had to pay to the trustee.
"I think that sometimes people mistake this as some kind of damages when it's not," Bala said. "It's just the state giving back what it improperly took."
The bankruptcy court could award a judgment for anywhere between $5.2 million to "in excess of $25 million," according to the settlement agreement, which warned of a "substantial likelihood of further protracted and costly litigation."
Attorneys for the PW Enterprises of Nevada, a major creditor acting on behalf of the RSI bankruptcy estate, argued against further delaying a resolution because the $15.9 million is now ready to be distributed to creditors. The parties would need to wait for the next North Dakota legislative session for another budget bill, they argued, meaning creditors and the estate would have to wait until at least 2019 for the money to be available.
"This delay in payment would be worth avoiding in any case, but certainly in a case pending since 2004," the attorneys wrote.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office declined to comment. Bala said they were waiting for another hearing to be set.