Chicago casino remains a long shot

October 24, 2011 7:38:57 PM PDT
Expect some fireworks in Springfield in the next two weeks as lawmakers gather for the fall veto session and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn defends his veto of the smart grid bill, challenges lawmaker scholarships and threatens to veto the expansion of state gambling.

"The people of Illinois don't want higher utility rates, they don't want politicians abusing scholarship programs and they don't want our state having wide open gambling like Las Vegas and Nevada," Quinn said Monday.

The governor said he would approve the General Assembly plan to license five new casinos, which includes one in Chicago -- but says slot machines at six horse racing tracks, the state fairgrounds and Chicago airports amounts to "oversaturation". Merit Casino company boss Joe Canfora, who wants to build in far south suburban Ford Heights, said there's room for gambling growth in Illinois.

"Now, on a national level, there are more slot machines per 100,000 people in Iowa than there are in Illinois," Canfora said.

A dozen south suburban ministers joined Canfora urging the governor to resolve the racetrack slot dispute. They say a south suburban casino could provide badly-needed economic development.

"The people need jobs. There needs to be an economic engine in that south suburban area, in Ford Heights," Rev. Gregory Livingston said.

Knowing his desired Chicago casino hangs in the balance, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is urging Springfield to compromise.

"I'm always open to ways to ways achieve the goal of a Chicago-based casino so that we can make critical investments and create jobs," Mayor Emanuel said.

"We've got to have integrity at all times. And I've put in very strong integrity measures to protect the public," Quinn said.

On veto session eve, the governor's continued hard line against racetrack slots does not bode well for a compromise. And without one, a city casino remains a long shot.

To override any potential veto by Quinn, lawmakers need 71 votes in the House and 36 votes in the Senate. The initial gambling bill passed with 65 votes in the House and 30 in the Senate

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