Illinois lawmakers back on track to expand gambling across the state
The debate over a Chicago casino and adding more gambling across the state could be starting up again. Some state lawmakers and the governor say a gambling bill could be passed this year, possibly even this session.
Illinois lawmakers passed a measure last year that would expand gambling across the state with five new casinos, including one in Chicago, slot machines at the airports and race tracks, and more. Gov. Pat Quinn has since criticized that bill, so it's still sitting in the state senate.
State Rep. Lou Lang is a major supporter of additional gambling. He said he'll be working to make sure some level of the comprehensive bill gets passed, and soon - with or without the governor's approval.
"This is the same governor who has approved buying lottery tickets at home on your computer. So 10-13 million Illinoisians apparently can gamble on their computer at home, but a few people can't go to a race track and gamble where they're already gambling? I think that's a very difficult stretch," Lang said.
There are a few different ways lawmakers could see gambling legislation this session. The general assembly could send the bill they already passed to the governor's desk for a sure veto, and then try and override that veto. They are always able to write and introduce new legislation, but Lang said that would take longer than he'd like.
Lang said he prefers trying to pass a bill that failed once, but doesn't include slots at the airports. Lang said the bill would include the five casinos from the original bill. He said it didn't pass the House originally because of low attendance.
Gov. Quinn said Tuesday five casinos is his limit. He's open to meeting about legislation, but there will be some restrictions.
"Some of the bills that have been bandied about in the past haven't had that kind of strong oversight. We cannot have expanded gambling in Illinois without watchdogs there for the public," Quinn said.
Passage of the newer House bill would please Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel has endorsed plans for a Chicago casino. Lang says the mayor has been calling lawmakers down in Springfield to make sure that gets done.
Correction: The original version of this story said the latest House bill would not add more slot machines at race tracks. The bill actually does include slots at race tracks, but does not allow slots at O'Hare Airport, Midway Airport or the fairgrounds in Springfield.