WBEZ | Senate President John Cullerton http://www.wbez.org/tags/senate-president-john-cullerton Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Tesla Motors opens first Midwest electric car 'supercharger' in Normal http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/tesla-motors-opens-first-midwest-electric-car-supercharger-normal-107884 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cullerton-tesla-mosi.jpg" title="Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, who owns a Tesla Model S, touts the California company's new Normal, Ill. Supercharging station at a press conference in front of the Museum of Science &amp; Industry. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div><p>Outside the Museum of Science &amp; Industry Wednesday, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton showed off the roomy &ldquo;<a href="http://www.getthefive.com/articles/the-eye-candy/defining-the-frunk-tesla-names-the-front-trunk-in/">frunk</a>&rdquo; of his luxury sedan, which had just travelled to Normal, Ill., and back, propelled by electrons pulled from the grid at Tesla Motors&rsquo; first &ldquo;supercharging&rdquo; station in the Midwest.</p><p>The new station in Normal is the company&rsquo;s ninth nationally, and its first that&#39;s not in California or on the East Coast. Their budding network of &ldquo;superchargers&rdquo; is meant to enable coast-to-coast travel by electric vehicle within just a few years. Tesla has plans to open another station in Rockford, Ill. later this year.</p><p>Tesla&rsquo;s Model S can travel up to 265 miles fully charged, which from the Normal station would reach Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee or St. Louis with miles to spare. The &ldquo;supercharging stations&rdquo; can fully charge Teslas in about 30 minutes. Once at its destination, the car can be charged from an electrical outlet overnight.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img 2015.="" alt="" by="" class="image-original_image" far="" have="" nine="" only="" opened.="" so="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tesla-map-2015-plan.jpg" stations="" tesla="" title="Tesla's plan to blanket the country with supercharging stations by 2015. So far only nine have been installed. (Tesla Motors)" /></div><p>Cullerton said he and his wife agreed to buy a Tesla Model S before the car was available on U.S. roads. Although he touted the cheap cost of travel &mdash; it costs the equivalent of three cents per gallon to drive, Cullerton said &mdash; the state senator noted that electric vehicles circumvent the gasoline taxes used to build and maintain roads.</p><p>&ldquo;We have to figure out how to pay for our roads,&rdquo; Cullerton said, &ldquo;but we also want to encourage people to buy electric vehicles.&rdquo;</p><p>Illinois currently offers a $4,000 rebate to complement the $7,500 tax credit that the federal government awards electric vehicle owners. That puts the effective price of a new Model S at about $48,000.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tesla-outside-mosi.jpg" style="width: 305px; height: 203px; float: right;" title="Tesla Model S. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" />California-based Tesla posted its first-ever quarterly profit in May, the same month the Model S surpassed the leading electric car, Nissan&rsquo;s Leaf, in monthly sales (the Leaf, priced around $32,000, still leads overall). <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/05/10/tesla_model_s_reviews_and_reliability_best_car_ever_made_not_yet.html">Despite rave reviews</a>, the Model S has not been widely adopted. Electric vehicle ownership is on the rise, but still makes up less than 1 percent of industry sales.</p><p>But Tesla&rsquo;s Dustin Krause said long-distance travel could help grow that share.</p><p>&ldquo;For electric cars for so long the problem has been that you can&rsquo;t go far enough,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Supercharging solves that.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="http://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 27 Jun 2013 10:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/tesla-motors-opens-first-midwest-electric-car-supercharger-normal-107884 As Illinois House committee approves pensions plan, attention turns to Senate http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-house-committee-approves-pensions-plan-attention-turns-senate-106936 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS2798_AP080109029993-madigan-scr_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An Illinois House committee <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/house-committee-oks-madigan-pension-plan-106926" target="_blank">approved a measure</a> Wednesday that would change how the state pays for its severely underfunded pension systems. The committee voted 9-1.</p><p>The bill still needs a majority vote in the full House of Representatives. But House Speaker Michael Madigan said his plan takes concepts that have already been debated and approved, and combines them into one package. It proposes things like raising the retirement age for younger state employees and reducing pay increases for retirees.</p><p>Still, the bill could face a harder vote in the state Senate.</p><p>A similar measure fell seven votes short. State Sen. Dan Biss, who first proposed some of the same concepts Madigan is now backing, said he thinks he can flip seven senators to support this latest pension proposal.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s lots of discussions,&rdquo; Biss said. &ldquo;This is a complicated issue and a very emotional issue and people have lots and lots of questions. And I think if this bill does come over from the House, we&rsquo;re just going to have to spend a lot of time talking through those questions and concerns.&rdquo;</p><p>Senate President John Cullerton has been critical of Madigan and Biss&rsquo;s proposal over legal concerns. He supports a different plan that would give retirees the option of getting state-funded health care coverage in retirement, or getting pay increases. Cullerton has argued that option meets the standards set by the state constitution, but the rival plan does not.</p><p>Labor unions have said they plan to sue if the legislature passes either plan. A coalition of labor groups say legislators should look at changing the tax structure, arguing cutting pension benefits is unconstitutional.</p><p>In a statement, a Cullerton spokesman said the Senate President is continuing to work on pensions and, &ldquo;ideally that bill will be constitutional.&rdquo;</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn, meantime, has voiced his support for Cullerton&rsquo;s plan. But in a statement released Wednesday, Quinn said, &ldquo;I commend the nine members of the House Committee who today voted to address the biggest challenge facing our state.&rdquo;</p><p>Illinois has the worst-funded pensions systems in the country. It also owes about $96 billion in pension debt.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers state politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 01 May 2013 14:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-house-committee-approves-pensions-plan-attention-turns-senate-106936 Lawmakers to try again for gambling expansion in 2012 http://www.wbez.org/story/lawmakers-try-again-gambling-expansion-2012-95363 <p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says lawmakers will try again this year to pass a gambling expansion bill.</p><p>Quinn said on Friday he's talked with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton about ways to revive the so-far failed measure in the coming months. But the governor said he's still against putting slot machines at horse tracks.</p><p>"There's a limit to this, and it's reasonable limit. It's got to be done with complete integrity and oversight, and I will insist on that," said Quinn.</p><p>The most recent attempt to pass a gambling expansion came in November, but it was narrowly defeated in the state House. Lawmakers have proposed allowing five new casinos in the state, including one in Chicago.</p><p>Quinn has threatened to veto the bill if it doesn't fit his guidelines.</p></p> Fri, 06 Jan 2012 23:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/lawmakers-try-again-gambling-expansion-2012-95363 Senate set to vote today on Sears, CME tax relief http://www.wbez.org/story/senate-set-vote-today-sears-cme-tax-relief-94844 <p><p>CME Group and suburban-based Sears are one step closer to getting the state tax breaks meant to persuade them to stay headquartered in Illinois.</p><p>On Monday the Illinois House approved a new tax relief package after it resoundingly rejected a similar measure last month. Now the House-endorsed plan moves to the Senate, where it's scheduled to be voted on Tuesday.</p><p>The Senate approved a similar bill last month. Speaking last week, Senate President John Cullerton said he didn't expect anything different this time around.</p><p>"We've already passed the bill with 36 votes, three-fifths vote in the Senate, bipartisan vote," said Cullerton last week. "The House did not pass it, so when the House does what they should do, then we'll react."</p><p>After the House vote Monday, a spokesman for Cullerton said the senator is optimistic about the tax plan's chances in the Senate.</p></p> Tue, 13 Dec 2011 11:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/senate-set-vote-today-sears-cme-tax-relief-94844 Cullerton confident tax relief package will pass http://www.wbez.org/story/cullerton-confident-tax-relief-package-will-pass-94789 <p><p>Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said he doesn't expect any problems passing a new tax relief package this week.</p><p>The state House of Representatives is scheduled to meet on Monday to vote on a new package aimed at keeping area-based Sears and CME Group in state after it failed to pass a similar package last month.</p><p>The Senate is scheduled to vote on the tax package Tuesday, though it passed its own version last month.</p><p>Senate President Cullerton said he's confident the House will pass the package this time.</p><p>"[The Senate] didn't go down on Monday because we're going to wait and see what they do on Monday," said Cullerton. "And when they pass the bill, on Tuesday we'll repeat what we've already done."</p><p>Lawmakers have said the package will be split into to two bills, one with the corporate tax breaks and another providing tax relief to low-income families.</p></p> Mon, 12 Dec 2011 11:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/cullerton-confident-tax-relief-package-will-pass-94789 Cullerton says Blagojevich damaged Illinois' reputation http://www.wbez.org/story/cullerton-says-blagojevich-damaged-illinois-reputation-94747 <p><p>Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said Thursday the state is ready to move on after the sentencing of former governor Rod Blagojevich.</p><p>Blagojevich was sentenced Wednesday to 14 years in federal prison and fined $20,000 for being convicted on multiple corruption charges.</p><p>Cullerton said Blagojevich damaged Illinois' reputation after his arrest in 2008.</p><p>"I'm not that familiar with the federal guidelines and sentencing and all that, but it's a sad day for his family, and we're ready to move on," said Cullerton.</p><p>Blagojevich has to report to prison by Feb. 16.</p></p> Thu, 08 Dec 2011 23:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/cullerton-says-blagojevich-damaged-illinois-reputation-94747 State lawmakers push for tax relief package http://www.wbez.org/story/state-lawmakers-push-tax-relief-package-93780 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-04/P1040013.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Legislative leaders in Illinois are trying to put together a tax relief package to keep some big companies in Illinois.</p><p>They have until Thursday to pass a bill that could give more tax incentives to companies like Sears and Chicago-based CME Group, which have threatened to leave the state since the corproate tax increase went into effect at the beginning of this year.</p><p>Senate President John Cullerton says he'll meet with his fellow Democrats early this week to outline some points leaders of both Democrat and Republican leaders say they want included in the package. Cullerton says the final deal should include tax breaks for both businesses and individuals.</p><p>"We need a more progressive tax system," said Cullerton, "so those principles will all need to be embodied in a bill, and we're working on those negotiations."</p><p>Cullerton and other legislative leaders met with the governor twice last week to discuss the potential tax package.</p><p>Week two of the veto session is scheduled to begin Tuesday.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 04 Nov 2011 21:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/state-lawmakers-push-tax-relief-package-93780 Veto session starts with gambling standoff http://www.wbez.org/story/veto-session-starts-gambling-standoff-93482 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-26/Quinn fall 2011 veto sess - AP Seth Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says he will follow the advice of Gov. Pat Quinn.</p><p>He’ll ask his Senate colleagues to vote on a scaled-down casino bill that does not include slot machines at horse-racing tracks. Cullerton will call it for a vote, knowing it most likely won’t pass.</p><p>State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston), who opposes any casino expansion in Illinois, offered a polite description of the standoff between Cullerton and Quinn.</p><p>"I think there’s always give and take in the legislative process. What is driving this is a desire to maintain momentum, rightly or wrongly, from whatever bill had passed earlier," he said.</p><p>But momentum may be dwindling. Cullerton hopes if Quinn’s version of the gambling bill fails to get enough support, the governor will come back to the negotiating table. Without slot machines at horseracing tracks, Cullerton and the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, say they can't get the bill out of their chamber. Slots at tracks are needed to keep downstate lawmakers on board, they say.</p><p>The horseracing industry supports family farms that grow hay, veterinarians and breeders for the horses in the suburbs and central Illinois. But Quinn has been standing firm against allowing slots at tracks, telling reporters he’s ready for lawmakers to “bring it on.”</p><p>Kristen McQueary covers state government for WBEZ and the <a href="http://www.chicagonewscoop.org%20">Chicago News Cooperative</a>.</p></p> Thu, 27 Oct 2011 02:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/veto-session-starts-gambling-standoff-93482 Is casino legislation losing momentum? http://www.wbez.org/story/casino-legislation-losing-momentum-91717 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-09/RS2667_Casino_Flickr_Ben McLeod.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Despite delays and debunked predictions—and a never-ending wait for Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision on a gambling expansion bill—supporters of expanded gambling in Illinois say they expect to find common ground by Oct. 25, the first day of the fall veto session.</p><p>The bill, stalled for months due to policy differences, political infighting and Quinn’s reluctance to increase gambling venues, remains a top priority.</p><p>But the waiting game may be ending soon. Unless Quinn outlines his concerns “in short order,” legislative leaders will present him with their own version of a clean-up gaming bill, known as a trailer bill, that will tighten control over the proposed Chicago-owned casino, according to State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), House sponsor of the bill. Other revisions may be coming as well, Lang said.</p><p>The options will be limited: Any change risks losing a vote on a bill that was a delicate balance of interests among Chicago, struggling cities such as Danville and Rockford that want new casinos, the horse racing industry and places like Joliet and Aurora where existing casinos fought the increased competition.</p><p>An amendatory veto, which would allow Quinn to change the bill and send it back to lawmakers for a re-vote, would be an unwise choice, Lang said.</p><p>“Substantial changes would put the speaker in a position of weighing compliance with the (Illinois) constitution on the amendatory veto,” said Lang, who is House Speaker Michael Madigan’s floor leader. “That’s not a good way to go. If the governor thinks we’re going to have substantial changes by way of amendatory veto, I think he’s mistaken.”</p><p>Whether lawmakers’ power play will work remains to be seen. Quinn is occupied by daily state budget pressures. He announced Thursday a series of employee layoffs and facility closings that also will be a top item of negotiation during the fall veto session.</p><p>For now, the gambling bill that narrowly passed the legislature in May is not on Quinn’s desk. In an unusual legislative gambit, Senate President John Cullerton is holding the bill in his chamber, even though it passed, for fear the governor will veto it. And by delaying, he is buying time for an ongoing negotiation. Once the bill reaches Quinn, he must act within 60 days or it becomes law.</p><p>Lang, along withSenate sponsor Terry Link, a Democrat from Waukegan, and Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, have been waiting for more specifics from the governor on which parts of the bill make him uncomfortable, but so far the governor has not been forthcoming.<br> Lang and other proponents of the gambling expansion bill spent months crafting legislation with the right ingredients to win approval from a diverse General Assembly. The bill passed the House with only five votes to spare. It passed&nbsp; the Senate with the minimum 30 votes. If Quinn vetoes the bill, lawmakers would need to override his action with supermajorities in both chambers. Supporters would need six more votes in the House and six more in the Senate—likely an impossible threshold on such a controversial piece of legislation..</p><p>The more realistic option is to craft a trailer bill that addresses Quinn’s concerns while keeping the original bill’s vote intact. Starting over, bill sponsors said, is not an option. Many lawmakers who voted against the bill opposed it on moral grounds or voted “no” to protect existing casinos in their districts, which would be hurt by the competition. Ten casinos already exist in Illinois in Elgin, Aurora, East Peoria, East St. Louis, Metropolis, Rock Island, Alton and two in Joliet. The newest casino opened in July in Des Plaines.</p><p>Other lawmakers who voted against the bill feared more gambling would not play well in their districts. Those minds would be difficult to change, especially in an election year when they are running in new territories. The boundaries of all House and Senate districts will change for the 2012 election cycle because of redistricting. &nbsp;</p><p>When lawmakers return to Springfield this fall for a two-week veto session, some of them may not know whether they are facing competition next year.</p><p>“During the periods of time we’ll be in Springfield for veto session, the time to circulate nominating petitions (to get on the ballot) will still be going on. So some legislators will be a little nervous about that,” Lang said.</p><p>Even a follow-up gambling bill addressing Quinn’s concerns could be tricky.&nbsp; Just a few cold feet would topple the coalition Lang and Link created last spring to pass the original bill.</p><p>For example, Link was able to bring reluctant Republicans on board, including state Sen. Larry Bomke of Springfield, by adding a year-round horse-racing component at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Lang pulled House colleague Luis Arroyo, Democrat of Chicago, into the “yes” column by promising a stream of casino revenue to a fund that would help homeowners facing foreclosure.</p><p>They convinced downstate representatives who would not benefit directly from expanded gambling to support it anyway by committing new money to county fairs, a source of pride for farming communities. They included a Danville casino to the bill, which added one senator and two state representatives as supporters.</p><p>As a result, the bill is a delicate pyramid of political trades. Any significant changes from Quinn would be a major setback.</p><p>“The timeframe is veto session or game over, right?” said Tony Somone, executive director of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, who says the bill is the last hope to save his industry. “I think we’ve showed the governor how our industry is on life support and we need him to sign the bill as is.”</p><p>In addition to policy differences—Quinn said from the beginning the bill was too big—political infighting has slowed it down.<br> &nbsp;<br> Quinn and Cullerton share a mutual lack of trust. One flare-up in May prompted Cullerton to call the governor “irrelevant” during state budget negotiations. Cullerton has refused to send Quinn the gambling bill until they reach a compromise, fearing Quinn might remind the legislature of his relevance by vetoing it outright. The bill is trapped in limbo between Cullerton’s desk and Quinn’s indecision.</p><p>The legislation would create the nation’s first city-owned casino in Chicago, along with four others around the state. The measure also would allow the state’s five horseracing tracks and Chicago’s two airports to add slot machines, and it would allow existing casinos to expand.</p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who wants the bill, cranked up the pressure on Quinn several times already and is planning more. The Chicago City Council on Thursday approved a resolution supporting a new casino. In mid-summer, Emanuel publicly unveiledthe projects a new casino would fund and organized a news conference of minority aldermen who called on Quinn to sign the bill. Emanuel also is expected to drum up more publicity by working with downstate groups who want Quinn to sign the bill.</p><p>Last week, Emanuel hosted a tour for General Assembly members, bringing them on Chicago Transit Authority buses to the National Teachers Academy to meet with Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, followed by a visit to the 911 Emergency Communications Center. They ended the visit at a Millennium Park reception. The Chicago casino wasn’t an explicit topic of conversation, but the tour gave Emanuel a chance to outline the city’s needs.</p><p>Like all of Emanuel’s moves, the timing was strategic. Lawmakers next month will be addressing the casino bill, however it plays out. Emanuel desperately wants it. The projected revenue boost for the city alone is an estimated $650 million annually, a huge cash cow for a city facing its own budget pressures.</p></p> Fri, 09 Sep 2011 13:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/casino-legislation-losing-momentum-91717 Observers question expanded gambling in Illinois http://www.wbez.org/story/observers-question-expanded-gambling-illinois-91160 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/cityroom_20071210_bcalhoun_Illi_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>Questions surrounding a gambling bill that is headed to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk have focused on regulation and on how much new casinos could raise for state coffers.</p><p>But casino industry watchers also are asking whether the gambling market will be oversaturated with five new riverboats, mini-casinos at the state’s five horse racing tracks and slot machines at Chicago’s airports. Increased competition from neighboring states, an unpredictable economy and casino bankruptcies are raising distress signals for the industry around the country.</p><p>The Illinois bill includes the nation’s first city-owned casino. It would be in Chicago, and be overseen by a board chosen by the mayor and approved by the Illinois Gaming Board. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been cranking up the pressure on Quinn to sign the bill. The mayor already has released a wish list of infrastructure projects he hopes to pay for with casino profits.</p><p>The Chicago-Northwest Indiana market ranks No. 3 in the nation in top casino earnings,&nbsp;behind Las Vegas and Atlantic City, according to the American Gaming Association.&nbsp;Every state but two, Hawaii and Utah, has some form of legal gambling, industry observers point out, raising questions about whether further expansion can be profitable.</p><p>Supporters say the appetite for gambling remains robust. They point to the July opening of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, the state’s newest casino, as proof. Traffic jammed the Tri-State Tollway, the casino parking lot reached maximum capacity and patrons waited in long lines to get inside.</p><p>State Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat from Chicago, said he was approached recently by a lobbyist hired by a Wisconsin casino who hoped to stifle competition by derailing Illinois’s expansion of gambling sites. The fact that neighboring states are worried suggests there is a market for more, Cullerton said.</p><p>Supporters also argue that a casino in tourist-rich Chicago would keep gamblers here instead of sending them across state lines. Dozens of buses depart from Chicago and the suburbs every day for gambling destinations elsewhere.&nbsp; Emanuel has said Illinois should not allow Indiana to get “$20 million a month while our infrastructure is crumbling."</p><p>Even if Quinn signs the gambling bill without changes, finding investors could be difficult. Investors in the Des Plaines Rivers Casino spent $450 million on licenses, fees and infrastructure before the doors even opened. And the state has one of the highest tax rates in the country, at 50 percent of adjusted gross receipts for the most profitable casinos.</p><p>“It’s a difficult economy to find any kind of capital,” said Ed Feigenbaum, publisher of Indiana Gaming Insight, a nonpartisan newsletter that tracks the industry. “In the boon days, anybody who had a gaming license could find cheap money. They also thought riverboats were immune to economic downturns. We found out that was not the case.”</p><p>Casinos nationwide have suffered from the recession, including those on Las Vegas’s famous strip. Dozens have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, teetered on bankruptcy, scaled back on property improvements or laid off employees.</p><p>In Indiana, five of the state’s 13 gambling properties filed for bankruptcy reorganization in recent years. One company, Casino Aztar, emerged from bankruptcy with a new owner, Tropicana Entertainment. But four others — Majestic Star I and II in Gary, Hoosier Park Racing and Casino in Indianapolis, and Indiana Live in Shelbyville — remain tangled in court proceedings.</p><p>Still, for local and state governments, the lure can be strong. Illinois casinos earned $1.4 billion in adjusted gross receipts in 2010, sending $384 million to the state treasury. An additional $83 million went to host towns. Rivers Casino in Des Plaines took in $18 million in adjusted gross receipts during its first two weeks of operation, according to the latest numbers from the Illinois Gaming Board. The totals put the casino on target for its projected $325 to $400 in annual revenue.</p><p>Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino and Gaming Association, which opposed the expansion bill, said adjusted gross receipts — profits minus winnings paid out to gamblers — paint a skewed portrait of casinos’s profits because the numbers do not include overhead costs.</p><p>“The bottom line is that the state makes two to three times more from taxes than the casinos,” he said. “On top of that, they’re paying salaries, fringe benefits and the other costs of operating that casino, everything from poker chips to toilet paper to garbage pickup. It’s difficult to try to convince some of the larger companies to come to Illinois and open up these properties.”</p><p>Illinois casinos reported their highest numbers in 2007, with $2 billion in adjusted gross receipts. Part of the drop-off since then hit in 2008 when Illinois banned indoor smoking statewide. Indiana, Michigan and Iowa allow smoking at many of their casino properties.</p><p>Riverboat casinos first opened in Illinois in 1991, reporting $15 million in adjusted gross receipts that year. Since then, the state has debated, but not enacted, numerous gambling bills. Lawmakers gradually changed the law to allow the floating vessels to become land based, and that has made them more profitable, with patrons able to come and go more easily.</p><p>In 2009, desperate for money to recharge the construction industry and put people to work, lawmakers legalized video poker as a way to pay off construction bonds. They followed that action this year with a proposed Chicago-owned casino, more riverboats and slots at racetracks.</p><p>A longtime gambling researcher, John Kindt, professor of business and legal policy at the University of Illinois, met with Quinn last week along with other gambling opponents to urge him to veto the bill. Gambling, Kindt said, is not the pot of gold supporters often suggest it is. For example, he said, money pumped into slot machines and other forms of gambling is lost to the overall economy.</p><p>“There are thousands of pages of research showing market saturation and how the gambling economy is cannibalizing the consumer economy,” he said. “As Governor Quinn has said himself, you can’t gamble your way to prosperity.”</p><p>As consolidation and bankruptcy weighs on the industry, casino giants are looking overseas for growth opportunities. Macau in China now surpasses Las Vegas as the world’s top gambling destination. Las Vegas gambling giants, including MGM Grand, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and the billionaire casino magnate Steve Wynn, are turning there for expansion, not necessarily to cities like Rockford or Danville, both of which would receive casinos under the Illinois bill.</p><p>As the governor considers his options, Senate President Cullerton is working on a follow-up bill to address Quinn’s concerns that the original measure lacks proper regulation. They also have discussed revising the 2009 video gambling law as part of a compromise package.</p><p>Quinn said he would act promptly when the legislation arrives on his desk. But he has not said precisely what that action will be.&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 29 Aug 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/observers-question-expanded-gambling-illinois-91160