Illnois Senate approves bill for more casinos, including one in Chicago

Gambling expansion plan now goes to Quinn's desk

May 31, 2011

Associated Press and City Room

(File/Getty/David McNew)

The Illinois Senate approved a bill on Tuesday that would allow five new casinos in Illinois - including one in Chicago.  The Senate approved the measure on a 30-27 vote, which now goes to Governor Pat Quinn for his approval.

As recently as Friday, Quinn expressed objection to the size and scope of the bill.

In addition to the Chicago facility, the legislation would allow the creation of four additional casinos in northern and central Illinois as well as an increase in slot machines at existing casinos and an expansion of slot machines to horse racing tracks in the state.

“We can’t have a top-heavy proposal in Illinois on gambling that’s going to make us the Las Vegas of the Midwest," Quinn said. "The people don’t want that.”

Proponents of the legislation say a major expansion of gambling is necessary to compete with neighboring states and pump more money into the treasury.  They claim to bill would generate $1.6 billion in upfront fees and licenses, which could be used to help pay down Illinois' massive debt, which now totals up to $8 billion dollars. 

In addition, proponents claim the measure would generate an additional $500 million or more each year in gaming related revenues.

Opponents argue the plan would not draw gamblers back from Iowa or Indiana but cannibalize business at nine current riverboat casinos.

Earlier today, an Illinois Senate committee approved the measure, sending it to the full Senate just one day after the Illinois House signed off on the bill. 

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed his support for a Chicago-based casino soon after taking office last week and has been working hard behind the scenes to rally support for the proposed legislation. 

In a statement, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he was pleased by the Senate's passage of the legislation.

"Today’s vote brings us one step closer to a significant victory for job creation and economic growth in Chicago. A Chicago casino will create 7,000 to 10,000 jobs and help energize our city’s economy," Emanuel said.

If signed into law the bill would mark the largest expansion of state-approved gambling in nearly two decades.