Perhaps spurred by the excitement of being out in public for a rare joint appearance, Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel suggested Friday that they are “very close” to an agreement to expand gambling in Illinois and bring a casino to Chicago.
Pressed for details, however, it became apparent that gambling supporters should temper their expectations. Emanuel didn’t sign on to Quinn’s timeline for getting a deal done. Key lawmakers said the notion that the mayor and governor were close was news to them. And privately, political aides indicated that details still need to be worked out.
Quinn and Emanuel, who recently feuded over whether the governor’s pick to run the state’s stadium authority was the best person for the job, appeared Friday at an event to announce that Argonne National Laboratory will lead a federal project to develop batteries with more storage.
As frequently happens, reporters asked the governor about the status of gambling expansion talks. This summer, Quinn vetoed a proposal to allow five new casinos, including one in Chicago, saying he wanted more ethical safeguards, and lawmakers failed to override that decision.
“I’m optimistic by the ninth of January that we can come up with a bill that meets all of our criteria,” Quinn said Friday. “The mayor and I are very close on the issue of strong regulation and ethics, and making sure the money goes to schools and infrastructure.”
Emanuel stood up behind Quinn and moved to the podium as the governor threw it to the mayor, who was more measured.
“But remember, this has been 25 years in the making,” Emanuel said of efforts to land a casino for Chicago. “But that said, as it relates to what the governor noted, some of the issues, on oversight and the type of issues like that, we’re in alignment. And I know from our meeting the governor agrees a hundred percent of the money should go into modernizing our schools.”
Asked whether he’s as optimistic as Quinn about crafting a bill that can get enough votes to pass the General Assembly while meeting the governor’s standards, the mayor said, “I believe that we are very close.”
Jan. 9 is the date when lame-duck lawmakers more willing to vote for controversial legislation leave the Capitol, their replacements are sworn in and the clock resets on legislation. Lawmakers plan to be in session the week before the changeover.
A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, played down the notion of gambling expansion being “very close.”
“Until there is an agreement with the governor,” Rikeesha Phelon said in an email, “I’d be hesitant to characterize anything as ‘movement.’”
Rep. Lou Lang, the House point man on gambling, said the governor “would do well to negotiate with members of the Legislature.”
“I haven’t seen it yet,” said Lang, D-Skokie. “If it’s a full agreement and it covers everybody, I will be happy to support it, but we’ll have to see.”
Tribune reporters Hal Dardick and Monique Garcia contributed.