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Odds on more gambling in Illinois improve, but still no sure bet

October 27, 2011

By Andrew Thomason
Illinois Statehouse News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Chances that Illinois will see more gambling could be getting better, as Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn enters negotiations with the Legislature.

Quinn is expected to discuss the future of gambling in Illinois with state Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Terry Link [3], D-Waukegan, said Cullerton spokesman Rikeesha Phelon.

The Legislature and Quinn have Oct. 27 and three days in the second week of November before the end of the scheduled veto session to address gambling, or it will be shelved until the 2012 spring session.

The move followed a debate over gaming in the Senate Executive Committee earlier Wednesday, Oct. 26, that Quinn’s office called a “charade.”

Governor Quinn looks forward to moving past the political games and towards sincere negotiations to reach a legitimate proposal that meets the framework he laid out,” Brook Anderson, a spokesman for Quinn, said in a written statement.

Quinn laid out his gaming expansion plan a week before the Legislature returned here for its fall veto session. The governor spent the summer criticizing the measure the Legislature passed, but offering no alternative.

The original plan included adding five casinos throughout the state, gaming positions at existing casinos, and video gaming at horse racetracks. Currently, the state has 10 casinos.

Quinn said he would agree to five new casinos but not video gaming at horse tracks. He also wanted to ban casino owners from making political contributions.

Link created legislation based on Quinn’s ideas, but Quinn’s office said, “This is not the governor’s bill.” Link did not bring the measure up for a vote in the state Senate Wednesday, Oct. 26, allowing him to incorporate Quinn’s input with any changes.

Neither Quinn nor Link has said he is willing to abandon the estimated $1.5 billion in upfront revenue and estimated $1 billion in annual revenue the state stands to get from more gambling.

I won’t sit back and go in a corner. I will be working with the (Senate) president and the House to get another bill resurrected to make sure we can get something done,” Link said.

Cullerton has prevented the original gaming legislation from going to Quinn through a procedural move. Because the legislation hasn’t been sent to Quinn, he hasn’t had the chance to veto it.

The tone between Quinn and the General Assembly regarding gaming has been escalating recently.

Bring it on. Make my day,” Quinn said Tuesday, Oct. 25, about sending the original legislation to him.

State Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, was critical about Quinn’s reluctance to sign off on more gaming in the state. The original gaming plan was the first of its kind to pass both chambers of the Legislature since the state allowed riverboat casinos in 1991.

The idea that the governor, who has lamented a lack of revenue, would so flippantly turn away from revenue … that could help us pay down the backlog of bills is frankly, in my view, a failure of leadership,” Murphy said.

However, Quinn and lawmakers do agree that since Illinois instituted an indoor smoking ban in 2008, the number of people gambling at Illinois’ casinos has dropped.

I really think that we … discovered that there’s an amazing number of people in Illinois that go to other states to gamble, and we’re losing that money,” Cullerton said.

The four riverboat casinos in the Chicago area saw adjusted gross receipts drop by $472.5 million, or 35.5 percent, between 2007, the last year smoking was allowed in casinos, and 2010, a report by the Legislature’s Commission on Government Forecast and Accountability, says.

That same reports said adjusted gross receipts for Chicago-area casinos in Indiana, which allows indoor smoking, increased by $6.6 million, or 0.6 percent, during the same period.

Take action

Following is contact information for key players in the casino debate:

Gov. Pat Quinn: 217-782-2000

State Sen. John Cullerton: 773-883-0770

State Sen. Terry Link: 847-735-8181

State Sen. Matt Murphy: 847-776-1490

Click here to contact your legislator

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