Lawmakers Meet To Discuss Gambling Expansion
A panel of legislators asked to study the future of gambling expansion in Illinois is meeting for the first time Tuesday.
The group is made up of legislative leaders of both parties from both the Illinois House and Illinois Senate --- including House Assistant Republican Leader Chad Hays (R-Catlin). He hopes to continue talks on a casino in Danville – which is part of one gaming bill.
Hays says there’s no guarantee the talks will mean such a measure is called for a vote. But he’s encouraged that Governor Bruce Rauner wants these conversations to take place.
Hays says he was never convinced that former governor Pat Quinn, who twice vetoed gambling bills, would ever approve one.
“I think that’s probably the upside to the new governor’s office indicating their interest in at least talking about this”, said Hays. “The hope would be that if we get to the point where there’s an actual bill, the passage in the House or the Senate ---- certainly having a governor willing to sign the bill would be more than a little helpful.”
Hays says a Danville casino license would not hurt other gaming interests in Illinois, given the city’s distance from other existing casinos.
Hays was also at Monday’s Illinois House Executive Committee hearing in Chicago on gambling expansion. He says most of the public comment was positive, with tourism officials touting the idea of a casino in Chicago.
Executive Committee Vice-Chairman Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) says gambling expansion is more likely to pass the legislature this month, following Friday’s Illinois Supreme Court ruling, striking down the 2013 pension reform law, that was meant to reduce the state’s $111 billion pension debt.
Rita says more casinos in Illinois could help raise some much-needed money.
“I would believe now that revenue is more of a need today than it was last week", said Rita. "Here is an area that we could generate revenue; it’s just a matter of, how do we get there.”
Monday’s House Executive Committee hearing focused on a proposal for a Chicago casino only. But the other proposal would also include casinos in Danville, Rockford and the Chicago suburbs.
(This story has been revised --- Tues. 5/12/15)