Quinn-tessential proposals

By Gregory Cappis

People excited about a casino in Chicago will have to wait a while longer.

At a news conference on Oct. 17 Gov. Pat Quinn announced he will veto a gaming bill that would allow for five new full-functioning casinos across the state—one in Chicago—and slot machines at race tracks and airports.

The economically stricken horse-racing industry has preached many times that it cannot survive if it cannot install slots. Balmoral Park’s website, BalmoralPark.com, prominently displays a banner encouraging people to support the bill in question.

“Casino gambling at 14 [new] locations in Illinois is way too much,” Quinn said. “My proposal is much smaller. It’s targeted, and it keeps the original intent of the law.”

The governor proposed new casinos be built in Chicago, Lake County, Danville, Rockford and suburban Cook County.

Rep. Lou Lang (16th District), chief sponsor of the bill, pointed out that the bill calls for only five casinos. The other nine locations the governor alluded to are racetracks, airports and the state fairgrounds.

“There will be no gaming bill unless racetracks get slot machines,” Lang said. “And the reason is that at its core a gaming bill is about jobs, not about gaming, not about gambling interests. It’s about jobs and economic development.”

Lang said horse racing employs approximately 40,000 people in Illinois, mostly downstate where people train horses and grow feed. Legislators in southern Illinois would veto any gaming bill that doesn’t allow slot machines at racetracks because they want to protect the jobs of residents in their district, he added.

“The downstate legislators couldn’t care less about casinos,” Lang said.

Quinn said the Illinois Gaming Board that runs the 10 current Illinois casinos must oversee all operations of a Chicago casino for him to approve. The current bill places power in the hands of the city, which would also operate the casino.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is anxious to work with the state legislators to start the process of creating “tens of thousands of jobs for Chicagoans,” according to a statement issued by the mayor. The mayor’s office would not comment on specifics of the bill or the governor’s statements.

Quinn also said Illinois must ban campaign contributions from casino operators and gaming licensees to prevent corruption, as is the case in other states such as Indiana.

“The bill that I will veto took two days to pass,” Quinn said. “I think it was done in a hasty manner and has major flaws.”

Quinn said another flaw was allowing slot machines in airports.

“When people get off the plane from another country or another state, the first thing they see are armed guards next to casinos—I don’t think so,” Quinn said.

Lang said he would be willing to negotiate with the governor regarding airport slot machines if race tracks are allowed the electronic gambling machines.

“We have a difference of opinion about the airports, and I think he’s dead wrong, but if he told me he would sign the bill as I drafted it with the airports out, I would take them out,” Lang said. “The rest of the bill is too important to let that issue hold it up.”

He said the idea of saving jobs and increasing economic development is the most important part of the bill. Quinn repeatedly stated that money for education should be the driving force behind a gaming bill.