CHICAGO – The Illinois Senate took another stab at a major expansion of gambling on Wednesday, approving a bill that supporters promoted as a means to pump as much as $1.2 billion of one-time money into state coffers and $250 million annually.
The measure, which would establish five new casinos including one for Chicago, passed in a 32-20 vote and now heads to the House.
Gov. Pat Quinn has not commented on the bill. He vetoed two previous gambling bills over concerns that they lacked sufficient regulatory oversight and opened the door to organized crime.
Quinn’s gambling board also raised concerns about the oversight of Chicago’s casino license due to vague language in past bills. Quinn also called past expansion bills too excessive.
The new bill’s sponsors said they believe modifications should address Quinn’s concerns. The package drops internet gambling, and makes clear that the state gambling board has regulatory control over the city’s license while a city appointed board would operate the casino. The revised bill also bans political contributions from owners of casinos and other gambling operations.
New casinos would go to Chicago, Danville, Rockford, a location in the Chicago south suburbs, and north of Chicago in Lake County. Senate Bill 1739 also allows slots at race tracks and Chicago’s airports.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised the advancing legislation and renewed his pledge to use any city profits from its casino to fund infrastructure improvements at Chicago Public Schools. “I encourage all parties in Springfield to take swift action on the gaming bill and, in so doing, create the opportunity for us to rebuild and renew our public education infrastructure in the city,” Emanuel said in a statement.
Quinn vetoed a previous bill in March and warned that expanded gambling would not solve the state’s pension funding crisis and lawmakers should focus on pension reforms. “We cannot gamble our way out of our pension challenge,” he said in his veto message.