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New casinos could go to Quinn in October

July 7, 2011

By Benjamin Yount
Illinois Statehouse News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois lawmakers approved five new casinos in May, but the bill isn’t expected to reach Gov. Pat Quinn’s (D) desk until October.

“I find it curious that if the House and Senate vote for something … that they don’t swiftly send it on to the governor,” Quinn said July 6. “I am prepared to use (my veto powers). I have done it in the past, but I don’t have any particular plan right now.”

State senators are holding the plan to add one casino in Chicago, two in its suburbs, and one each in Rockford and Danville with a special legislative maneuver.

The governor has expressed skepticism about the casino legislation to add five new casinos and expand gambling opportunities at racetracks and Illinois’ 10 existing riverboats, yet he has not said what changes he would like to see in the bill. Quinn supports a new casino in Chicago, but not the proposed casino in Danville. Also, he’s all but declared he will not allow slot machines at the racetrack at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

State Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan) said he wants to give Quinn as much time as he needs to become comfortable with the plan. Link has met several times with the governor to discuss the gambling expansion legislation, but Quinn has not said what he wants added or removed from the proposal.

“We’re actually helping him, in a sense, by not sending it to him,” said Link, who helped write the casino legislation, and shepherded it through the Senate. “If the governor says ‘I’d like X, Y, Z,’ and we can agree on X, Y, Z, then we would put it into a (new piece of legislation), and right now it would all be done in the veto session.”

The fall veto session is scheduled for the last week of October and the second week of November. Link said if there is an agreement with the governor on the legislation, he expects action then.

Meantime, local leaders who have been promised a casino are waiting.

Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer is scheduled to meet with Quinn July 7. He said his meeting will be a chance to “sell” the idea of a Danville casino to the governor and answer any questions Quinn might have.

But Eisenhauer, who has been disappointed by past failed attempts to bring a casino to Danville, said he does not need to have an answer from the governor when he leaves the meeting.

“We’re very patient people, and we’re not losing any faith,” said the mayor. “The only disappointment is that the longer this process takes, the longer we have to wait to start generating money for the state.”

Quinn said in addition to local leaders, he wants to meet with Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe, who has in the past called the casino expansion plan “garbage.”

Jaffe has said the legislation falls short because it selects locations for the new casinos, a responsibility originally delegated to the Gaming Board. He also has expressed frustration at the lack of money for his regulators to oversee the new casinos.

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