Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn criticizes gaming industry, but doesn't rule out approving the casino bill

June 1, 2011

Cityroom and AP Wires

(Getty/Joe Raedle)

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn says legislation allowing five new casinos in Illinois - including one in Chicago - is "excessive" and "top heavy." But despite his criticisms, the Chicago Democrat stopped short of saying he would veto the bill outright.

Quinn said at a news conference Wednesday that he will carefully review the bill, vowing to read each and every page.  Last week he said he'd "never support" it, but in the past has been open to the idea of a casino in Chicago.

The measure would allow a new casino to be established in Chicago and in four other locations in central and northern Illinois. It also paves the way for expanding gaming positions at the state's existing casinos, and would also allow slot machines at race tracks and Chicago airports.

"Any person with common sense would say that's excessive," said Quinn during a lengthy news conference at the Illinois State Capitol.

But proponents of the measure say the gambling expansion would provide as up to $1.6 billion in much needed funds to help pay down the state's mounting multi-billion dollar debt.  They also claim the additional facilities would provide an estimated $500 million in additional annual revenues to the state thereafter.

But Quinn criticized the legislative process and the role of lobbyists played in shaping last minute changes to the bill, saying it was good for the gaming industry but he wasn't sure yet if it was good for the state.

"Illinois is not for the gamblers, it's for the people," Quinn said.  "And my job is to make sure the people come first."

Quinn didn't rule out vetoing to the bill, pointing out that the option is available to the governor under the Illinois constitution and that the power has twice been supported by public referendum.

"Sometimes you have to use that," he remarked.