Governor’s office says new casino bill ‘a charade’

October 26, 2011

By Kristen McQueary

Amid cries of insincerity and off-the-charts cynicism, supporters of a gambling bill unveiled a new proposal Wednesday afternoon that includes many components Gov. Pat Quinn said he wanted.

But because Quinn wasn’t involved in the bill’s creation, his spokesman called it a “charade,” capping another day of back-and-forth power plays between the Illinois Senate and Quinn’s office.

“We laid out a framework for gambling expansion,” Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said. “You don’t plop it in a bill and call it a day without the participation of the governor’s office.”

The bill sponsor, state Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan), insisted the bill was a sincere effort to get gambling expansion passed in Illinois. The new bill, per Quinn’s requests, includes the following:

1)   Longer time frames for the Illinois Gaming Board to review casino license applications.

2)   More control over a Chicago Casino Development Authority, including a gaming board review of all contracts, a new inspector general to oversee gambling operations and the gaming board, and allowing the gaming board to yank the Chicago-owned casino license in cases of wrongdoing.

3)   The Chicago authority also would work with Illinois State Police for enforcement issues. The casino in Chicago would undergo license renewal every four years, just like the other Illinois casinos.

4)   The Illinois Gaming Board would get $50 million more in state money to hire additional staff.

5)   Park City, a host town requested by Link, would no longer be an automatic winner under the new bill. Any community in Lake County can try to get a license.

6)   No slots at Chicago airports.

7)   Existing casinos, along with the five proposed, new facilities, would contribute up to $330 million annually toward the horseracing industry. The provision is “instead of” allowing the tracks to become “racinos” where they can install slot machines—a measure Quinn opposed. Senate President John Cullerton indicated the contribution amount could be tweaked if it would help bring the existing casinos on board with the new bill.  

8)   Casinos would pay an additional impact fee to go toward education.

9)   Lawmakers would no longer be allowed to accept campaign contributions from the casino industry.

10) The new Des Plaines Rivers Casino would no longer qualify for a $4 million credit.

Cullerton and Link insisted they wanted the bill to pass in the Senate and would be voting for it, but Quinn’s office and others insisted they were playing games. Without the support of the horseracing industry, which wanted slots at tracks, the bill won’t pass, they said.

The governor wanted all sides to sit down and negotiate after he unveiled his list of demands last week. So far, that hasn’t happened.  Link said he did not speak with the governor about the bill but said he had been working with the governor’s staff.

Anderson said Link’s bill was “not a legitimate proposal” and that the governor’s office only received a copy of the language last night.

Kristen McQueary covers state government for WBEZ and the Chicago News Cooperative.