Durbin 'saddened' by gambling expansion in Illinois

June 24, 2011 4:16:50 PM PDT
Governor Pat Quinn is pondering what to do with legislation that would allow gambling expansion in Illinois.

Add another high-profile Illinois political voice to those with serious reservations about expanded gambling in the state. United States Senator Dick Durbin is urging Governor Quinn to think long and hard about signing the expansion bill that has already passed by both chambers of the General Assembly.

"I'm really saddened that we've reached a point in Illinois where that is a major source of revenue in our state," Durbin said. "I don't think it is the best source when it comes to dealing with our debts."

Durbin was just another citizen spectator who watched the Illinois House and Senate last month approve a massive expansion of gambling in the state.

"Most of the people who gamble at casinos and other places are poor and elderly. Many of them are gambling away dollars they can't afford to lose," said Durbin.

Senate Bill 744 would license five additional casinos in Illinois, including a huge land-based facility in the city of Chicago. Slot machines would also be allowed at race tracks and in the terminals of airports, including O'Hare and Midway.

"There's 10,000 jobs, minimum, that are going to be with this legislation," said Senator Terry Link, (D) Lake County.

State Senator Link, the bill's sponsor, also says the debt-ridden state would earn $1.5 billion in upfront licensing fees.

"All that money is going to be used to pay down bills," said Link.

The bill is supported by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but opposed by House Speaker Michael Madigan, who despite the state's financial woes would rather that gambling be minimized in Illinois.

Governor Quinn's position is unclear. He has opposed gambling expansion through most of his career. Now he says he will listen to both sides of the issue.

"When it comes to gambling, the people want to make sure that everything is done to the highest standard of integrity and honesty," said Quinn on Thursday.

"Take a close look and careful look," Durbin said. "We're going down a path in Illinois which is going to expand gambling, and unfortunately, there are social costs associated with it that will be paid by everybody."

Governor Quinn said he could spend the rest of the summer hearing from both sides on the gambling bill. He has the luxury of time because, technically, Senate President John Cullerton still has not sent the finished bill to the governor's desk. Once it arrives, Quinn has only 60 days to sign or veto it.

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