Ill. House panel OKs new plan to expand gambling

November 8, 2011 3:16:26 PM PST
An Illinois House committee has approved a new, smaller gambling plan that backers hope can survive a threatened veto by Gov. Pat Quinn.

It passed 8-2.

Lawmakers hope the revised gambling bill will get the governor's approval.

The new bill includes slot machines for racetracks and a casino in Chicago, but no gambling at the city's airports. A vote on the revised bill is expected Wednesday.

The house and senate sponsors of the bill to expand gambling in the state of Illinois are hoping that the measure will satisfy Governor Quinn. If not, they hope to attract a supermajority of their colleagues in both chambers to preemptively override the governor's veto.

"I'm sure even the governor would say that we've made a good faith effort to match up some of our ideas with some of his ideas," said Rep. Lou Lang.

House sponsor Lang said the revised gaming bill was written based on news reports of what the governor says he liked or disliked about the measure passed by both chambers last May.

The revised bill gives the Illinois Gaming Board more control of new gambling venues. It eliminates 7,000, or 26 percent, of the gaming positions permitted under the first bill, erasing slot machines at airports and the state fairgrounds while licensing five new casinos, including one in the city of Chicago.

"Our focus is to get the governor to sign this bill when we pass it," said Sen. Terry Link.

But the revised bill still permits slot machines at Illinois racetracks that Governor Pat Quinn opposes, fearing the so-called "racinos" will oversaturated the state with gambling.

Representative Fred Crespo, whose northwest suburban district includes Elgin's Grand Victoria Casino, agrees with the governor.

"There's only so many gamblers in the state. I don't think we're gonna see a lot more revenue," said Rep. Fred Crespo. "I think it's just going to divide it up." "We listened to what the governor's situation was, but we also wanted to listen to how we could pass the bill," said Link.

Lang says a bill without racetrack slots would never pass muster with downstate and rural lawmakers. He will run the revised bill Wednesday, hoping to get a veto-proof 71 votes in the 119-member House.

The supermajority would render the governor's opposition to racinos irrelevant.

"You may have heard the governor's comments last week, wherein he said he was interested in slot machines at racetracks to save the horse racing industry. I think that was a glaring oversight, an appalling mistake," said Lang.

Even Lang concedes that the new gaming bill could have an even tougher time getting a supermajority in the Illinois Senate. That vote won't happen unless it is first approved by the house. That vote should happen some time Wednesday.

Also in Springfield Tuesday, a house committee advanced a bill to place speedcams in the city of Chicago in school zones. A vote on that measure could happen Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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