Lawmakers Hope for Compromise on Gaming Measure
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)
Three legislators and Danville's mayor are happy to see plans for a casino in the city remain intact after a review by Gov. Pat Quinn.
But Catlin Republican House member Chad Hays said removing slot machines at racetracks from the gaming measure will keep it from passing. He said backing of the bill for many downstate House lawmakers hinged on connections between horse racing and agriculture. Revenues from the racetrack slot machines would have gone toward conservation districts and county fairs.
Hays sad there are still options, including an override of a gubernatorial veto, but he said getting the necessary votes in the Senate is a long shot.
Hays noted that Senate President John Cullerton could introduce a 'trailer bill' to try and accommodate the governor, but he said he believes that won't get the necessary backing without the so-called 'racinos.'
"Being close enough to the process, and knowing the members on the (House) floor, where they are geographically, and what their relationship is to agriculture," Hays said. "I think you would lose a significant number of votes, probably 15 or 16 at least, if the 'racinos' would not be in the bill."
Hays said Quinn also has the option of taking no action once getting the bill over a period of 60 days, too late for any action in the veto session.
Champaign Senator Mike Frerichs said it was good to see Gov. Quinn recognize that Danville made a compelling case for a casino, and put forth some suggestions of his own. But he agrees that Quinn's removal of slot machines at racetracks, will cost a number of votes from downstate lawmakers because of the slot machines' benefit to agriculture.
Frerichs called Quinn's comments a good starting point, but he said a lot of work lies ahead in order to come to a compromise.
"I believe the sponsors acknowleged there may need to be some changes in order to scale back the extent of the expansions," Frerichs said. "I think (Gov. Quinn) has scaled it back so far that the bill will have lost several supporters in the House, downstate members who feel there's probably not a lot left in for downstate in what he's proposing."
Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said he is excited that Quinn has recognized the need for a casino in his city, but he also fears the loss of the slot machines at racetracks and changes to the Chicago casino license could kill the measure. Eisenhauer said he will keep tabs on changes to the bill as legislators prepare to return to Springfield.
"I'll talk to different legislators around the state to get a feel for what resolutions for what might be offered up to find out what discussions are in fact taking place, and is there anything that we can provide that would help in those discussions," Eisenhauer said.
Eisenhauer also said he plans to visit Springfield during the fall veto session, which starts Oct. 25.
The gambling legislation passed the General Assembly in May, but Senate President John Cullerton has been holding on to the measure until Quinn gave details on what he would support.
"We will be sure to include them in the discussions going forward at the idea of trying to come up with an appropriate compromise that can pass both the general assembly and the governor's support," said John Patterson, a spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton.