Governor vetoes gambling expansion, local leaders vow to continue push for casino

Online Staff Report

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) vetoed a bill Aug. 28 that would have expanded gambling and allowed for the construction of five new casinos in Illinois, including one in Rockford.

Illinois should never settle for a gaming bill that includes loopholes for mobsters,” Quinn said in his veto message to the Illinois Legislature.

Quinn attacked the bill (Senate Bill 1849) for not placing a ban on contributions from gaming licensees and casino managers to political campaigns. Other states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, Iowa and Indiana, have such restrictions.

The bill would have increased from 10 to 15 the number of casinos in the state, including one in Chicago. The bill would also have allowed for slot machines to be included at race tracks.

In response to the veto, State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, issued the following statement: “It is disappointing that the governor would outright veto this bill. If his concerns were just an ethics issue, why didn’t he amend, rather than veto, this legislation and add his language to it?”

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) said, “While I’m disappointed that the governor didn’t sign the bill in its current form, I am encouraged by the continued support from both the governor and legislative leaders for a bill that would include a casino for the city of Rockford while strengthening state-wide ethics provisions.

I spoke with the governor’s legislative office today, as well as with House leader [Lou] Lang and Senate President [John] Cullerton,” Morrissey added. “While I continue to support the need for any gaming bill to protect against ethics violations, I join the majority of voters across the state who want a gaming bill approved that will support immediate jobs and economic development tools for the state.”

Polling done across the state demonstrates voter support for a gaming bill that would create more than 20,000 jobs for the state without raising taxes. In Quinn’s veto message, he indicated support for a bill that would create jobs for the state, but repeated his demand for a ban on campaign contributions from gaming operators.

Morrissey said he supports the governor’s call for collaboration with the General Assembly and other interested parties to reach an agreement. Morrissey said he also supports Quinn’s call for comprehensive public pension reform, including reform of downstate fire and police pension systems.

The recession continues to plague Rockford and our surrounding communities,” Morrissey said. “Gaming alone is not the answer. But as a border community, we face continued loss of revenues from gaming concerns outside the state that will only get worse if a new Beloit Indian casino is built first.

We cannot afford to delay further action or meaningful public employee pension reform,” Morrissey added. “We also cannot afford continued delay on a gaming bill that would help the state create jobs and protect Illinois revenues from out-of-state competition. I look forward to action in the November veto session on both fronts.”

The gaming legislation was worked out with five communities across Illinois and was passed by both houses.

Syverson said, “Vetoing this bill will not only open the door for our neighboring states to expand gaming on our borders, including Beloit, but will also have a negative effect on 4H, Soil and Water and other AG-related businesses that would have benefited from this.”

Syverson suggested the veto was more about protecting existing casinos than anything else.

The existing casinos are doing well, and with this legislation, their taxes are lowered to offset the increased competition,” Syverson said.

Syverson said he will work with Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R), Morrissey and other local leaders to formulate a response, and will also work with the Senate president to decide the next step — whether to construct a new bill or override the existing legislation.

Posted Aug. 28, 2012

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