Slimmed-Down Gambling Bill Fails in Ill. House
Gambling legislation designed to pick up new support so it could survive a veto failed outright in the Illinois House on Wednesday amid opposition from Gov. Pat Quinn and blistering criticism from the state's top gambling regulator.
Looking stunned, the measure's sponsor said he was at a loss to explain the outcome.
"We'll get to the bottom of it and figure out if we can find the necessary votes to pass it by tomorrow," said Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie.
The surprise results added to the uncertainty and unfinished business heading into what was supposed to be the final day of the fall legislative session. Also still left on the table for Thursday were tax breaks for businesses, efforts to keep Quinn from closing prisons and mental institutions, changes to government pensions and restoring salaries for regional school superintendents.
The long "to do" list prompted House leaders to announce an extra day of work, on Nov. 21, primarily to deal with the business incentives.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said opposition from Quinn and the head of the Illinois Gaming Board probably hurt the gambling bill.
"That could dissuade people from voting yes," Madigan said.
The Democratic governor has spent weeks criticizing the gambling legislation, largely because it would allow slot machines at horse-racing tracks. On Wednesday, Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe stepped up his criticism of the bill, saying it would weaken regulatory oversight of gambling in Illinois.
Jaffe said the bill is being pushed through so quickly that many lawmakers, perhaps even its sponsors, don't understand what it would do.
"If they do understand what they're voting on, they should be ashamed of themselves," Jaffe said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "They're undermining regulation, and they're undermining it terribly."
Six months ago, a major gambling expansion passed the House but not with enough votes to survive a potential veto by Quinn. The new version was meant to pick up additional support. It scaled back the size of the increase - for instance, by dropping slot machines at Chicago airports and the state fairgrounds - and addressed complaints about lax regulation.
The measure still allowed five new casinos and permitted racetracks to operate slot machines.
The final vote was 58-53, two votes short of passing and 13 short of a veto-proof majority.
The vote was a victory for Quinn and a defeat for new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is eager to land a Chicago casino and the jobs and taxes it would generate.
"The mayor of the city of Chicago is a big boy. He's an adult," Lang said. "He knows that in the legislative process you win some, you lose some."
"But I know he's not happy about losing, as I am not," Lang added.