News Local/State

Gov. Quinn Rejects Plan to Expand Illinois Gambling


Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday rejected a bill to expand gambling in Illinois, including new land-based casinos in Danville and Chicago, saying the proposal lacked sufficient regulatory oversight.

With two of his predecessors in prison, the Chicago Democrat had made it clear he must preserve his political integrity in the plan, which also proposed establishing four new riverboat casinos and allowing slot machines at racetracks.

The most glaring omission from the bill "is the absence of strict ethical standards and comprehensive regulatory oversight. Illinois should never settle for a gaming bill that includes loopholes for gangsters," Quinn said in a statement.

Supporters of the bill estimated the expansion could have brought in up to $1 billion a year, boost tourism and create 100,000 jobs for the state. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel supported the establishment of a city casino.

But opponents said more casinos could saturate some markets and raised concerns about the social cost.

The proposal would have established a city-owned Chicago casino with spots for 4,000 people to gamble at once. It also would have added riverboat casinos in Danville, Park City, Rockford and an undecided location in Chicago's south suburbs. Each riverboat casino would have had 1,600 gambling positions, and allowed Illinois' 10 existing casinos to grow.

Earlier attempts at expanding gambling in Illinois have failed. Lawmakers approved a similar plan last year but did not send the plan to the governor, who had threatened a veto.

Quinn, who isn't opposed to gambling on principal, had said all along that he wanted a bill with stronger ethical protections. That includes barring the gambling industry from making political contributions.

"Everybody should be concerned about ethics in our state. We have two governors, my predecessors, both in jail. That's a pretty darn important issue for our state to have integrity at all times in every part of government, and that includes regulating casinos," he said Monday. "It must be airtight when it comes to protecting the public."

In response, lawmakers also filed a so-called trailer bill to address some of Quinn's concerns. However that wouldn't be considered unless the initial law is signed, and Quinn has said he'd rather get all the legislation signed at once.

"We're fairly confident we can override the veto in the House, we are not as confident at this point that we have the votes to override the veto in the Senate," said former State Representative Bill Black of Danville, who chairs the statewide Revenue and Jobs Alliance. 

And Democratic Representative Lou Lang of Skokie says Quinn continues to hurt Illinois' economy with the veto. "He apparently is not interested in creating or saving 90-thousand jobs," he said. "He's apparently not interested in over a billion dollars of unpaid bills being taken care of, and he's apparently not interested in hundreds of million of dollars in new revenue every year, and additionally not too interested in keeping thousands of Illinoisans everyday who get in their cars and drive to Indiana, keeping them in the state of Illinois."

Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno, at the Republican National Convention in Florida this week, says she wasn’t surprised.

“He was particularly concerned about the contributions aspect, the oversight aspect, and I think the size of the bill," Radogno said.  "Frankly I agree with him on all of those concerns.  So I’m pleased that he vetoed it and that we’ll be back to the drawing board.”

And gaming opponent Anita Bedell, the Executive Director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems, says the expansion of gaming would have added to a growing concern.

"We have enough gambling in Illinois, and as the Governor has said, the state can not gamble its way to prosperity," she said.  "With all of the gambling, look at the problems that we have in Illinois, gambling has not solved any economic problems, it only has made them worse."

The bill is SB1849.