CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday vetoed a controversial gambling expansion bill that would have authorized five new casinos and allowed slots at racing tracks, which sponsors had touted as a means to bolster local and state coffers with new tax dollars.
Quinn had previously threatened to use his veto pen on the measure if lawmakers didn’t include stronger oversight and regulatory authority and a ban on campaign contributions from some gaming operators. He has endorsed the new casinos but opposes slots at racetracks.
Quinn could have vetoed portions of the expansion in Senate Bill 1849. He vetoed the entire bill, saying in his veto message, “Notably, this legislation lacks a ban on campaign money from gaming licensees and casino managers. We must prevent campaign contributions by gaming operators from infecting our political process.”
“Illinois should never settle for a gaming bill that includes loopholes for mobsters,” he said.
Sponsors of the bill said they would push for an override vote when the General Assembly meets later this year for its annual fall veto session. Sponsors would need to persuade more senators to support the bill in order to succeed in an override.
Supporters contend the expansion would save or create nearly 100,000 jobs. It would generate more than $1 billion in up-front licensing and tax payments, and then $300 million to $1 billion annually to help pay down the state’s mammoth backlog of overdue bills.
Chicago was in line to receive one of the new casino licenses included in the bill. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had in the past pressured Quinn to sign the legislation, said he would push to win passage of a bill that could win Quinn’s support.
“A Chicago casino would create thousands of crucial jobs for Chicagoans and provide resources that would be used to rehabilitate neighborhood schools. Chicago loses $20 million a month and countless jobs to casinos in Indiana,” Emanuel said.
Lawmakers approved the gambling expansion this spring in a vote that surprised some, as Quinn pressed them to instead focus on Medicaid and pension reforms. Lawmakers last year passed a larger expansion package but Senate leaders never sent it to Quinn’s desk where it faced a certain veto.