SPRINGFIELD — Shunting aside Gov. Pat Quinn’s concerns, the Illinois House today approved a major expansion of gambling in Illinois that would put a casino in Chicago and four other cities, add positions at riverboats and allow slot machines at racetracks.
The move came after sponsoring Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, got tired of waiting for Quinn to offer an alternative proposal.
The 69-47 vote, with two lawmakers voting present, signaled that Lang was within striking distance of gathering enough lawmakers to reach the necessary 71 needed for an override of a Quinn veto if he stands by his opposition to putting slot machines at racetracks.
During debate, Lang said the governor has indicated more than once that he supports the new casinos in the bill but that “he and I have had a dispute” over the racetracks getting slot machines. Lang has made it clear for months that he could not pass gambling expansion without including the provision for slot machines and other electronic betting games.
Lang predicted the “velocity of revenue” would be a job generator and economic boost for Illinois, saying the bill could raise between $300 million to more than a billion dollars a year, depending on who is counting. That would be in addition to sales taxes generated from spin-offs, Lang said.
In addition to a gambling palace in Chicago, the four other casinos would go to Rockford, Danville, Park City in Lake County and an undetermined site in the south suburbs. The Chicago casino could be land-based or docked on Lake Michigan with 4,000 gambling positions. Chicago would own the casino, and there would be a casino authority that would oversee construction and operations. The bill makes clear that the Illinois Gaming Board would be the “supreme authority,” Lang said, saying it was tightened to make it clear who has the final say.
Rep. Al Riley, D-Olympia Fields, said four communities in the south suburbs have sought the opportunity to keep hordes of Illinois gamblers who travel from Illinois to spend gambling dollars on the nearby boats in Indiana.
But Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, urged lawmakers to reject the legislation as “out of hand,” saying it would cause people to lose money who can least afford to lose it.
“I think we send the wrong message,” Kay said.