Gambling bill could be headed for debate once again

Illinois House may take up issue of slot machines at ractracks this week

May 14, 2012

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(WBEZ/Michael Puente)
The Illinois House could take up the controversial issue of gambling expansion later this week.

This week could be an important one for those wanting to see the State of Illinois approve gambling expansion. The House could once again be bringing up for debate a bill that would open new casinos and place slot machines at racetracks, just as the current legislative session is scheduled to wrap up by month’s end.

Gov. Pat Quinn says he’s opposed to slot machines at tracks and wants lawmakers to focus on other issues. But that’s not stopping the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) from trying once again, even though negotiations with the governor haven’t been fruitful.

“The governor’s against it, but we think we want to save the 40,000 jobs in the agri-business industry. I think given the economy of the state of Illinois and the budget problems we have, I might be able to find the votes to pass the bill,” Lang told WBEZ. “I feel strongly that the economic development and job creation that the bill creates is something that we ought to move forward.”

Democrat Terry Link of Waukegan, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, says a debate could begin by mid-week.

The Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability concluded an expansion in gaming could generate $444 million in additional tax revenue each year if SB 1849 becomes law.

Quinn’s spokeswoman Brooke Anderson says the governor isn’t focusing on gambling expansion. 

“We’re focused on the two largest challenges: pension and Medicaid. The governor laid out a strong framework on gaming. He said that any kind of expansion needs to be a smaller, more modest expansion than what was proposed last year. Something that has strong ethical safeguards and something that provides adequate revenue for education,” Anderson said. “The governor will take a look at what’s proposed.”