Quinn pushes for new gambling legislation

October 18, 2011 3:41:57 PM PDT
Gov. Pat Quinn is standing firm on what he will and will not approve for the expansion of gambling in Illinois.

While the governor, horse race track owners and some lawmakers remain at odds over the addition of casinos and slot machines, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is hoping things will work out so Chicago can land a new casino.

Count Gov. Quinn among the Illinois political leaders who want a new casino built in the city of Chicago. But the already-passed measure to enable its construction is serious trouble. That's because the governor doesn't like the bill's language and gaming expansion it calls for elsewhere in the state.

"We're not going to be a wide open state, the Las Vegas of the Midwest, that's not right," said Quinn.

Twenty four hours later, during and after his speech to civic and business leaders at Chicago's City Club Tuesday, the governor had not budged in his opposition to slot machines at O'Hare and Midway airports.

"Is that the image we want to send to the whole world?" said Quinn.

Or at the state fairgrounds and Illinois race tracks.

"The racetracks want to become casino operations, that's what they're looking for," said Quinn.

The governor says he will sign a gaming expansion bill if it includes only five additional casinos in Chicago, the southern Cook suburbs, Lake County, Rockford and downstate Danville. To business and civic leaders Tuesday, Quinn repeated his mistrust of Chicago politicians who under the bill passed last spring would control construction and vending at a city casino.

"We're not going to allow Chicago to have a casino and regulate itself. That would be a bad way to go," said Quinn.

But the state's horse racing industry also has not budged from its position that any new gaming expansion bill that does not include slot machines at race tracks cannot pass the General Assembly.

"That part of the bill, the racehorse component is vital if he's going to pass this bill and provide that billion dollars to the State of Illinois," said Gary Mack.

Mayor Emanuel, who wants the jobs and tax revenues a Chicago casino would generate, is holding out hope for a compromise despite the governor's hard line.

"Never say 'my way or the highway'. That's not how I do my things. He's laid out what he would like to see. The legislature's going to lay out what they think. I think you'll see some great overlap," said Emanuel.

But Gov. Quinn said there was no circumstance in which he could sign a bill that allowed slots at racetracks.

"It cannot be some kind of bill that passes to appease every single lobbyist in Springfield, and I'm not going to go for that. I said that yesterday, I'll say it today, I'll say it tomorrow," said Quinn.

The General Assembly reconvenes next week in Springfield for the fall veto session. Already lawmakers are trying to revise the bill to the governor's liking.

The governor has been known to change his mind from time to time. But this time, he does appear to be taking a firm stand and if you believe people in the horse racing industry it's enough to kill the bill and the Chicago casino.

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