Ill. gambling expansion, Chicago casino deadline
CHICAGO (AP) -- Gov. Pat Quinn will announce Tuesday the fate of a proposal to expand gambling in Illinois, including a new land-based casino in Chicago, weighing ethical and social concerns against the possibility of bringing a jackpot of jobs and revenue to the state.
With two of his predecessors in prison, the Chicago Democrat has made it clear he must preserve his political integrity in the plan, which also proposes establishing four new riverboat casinos and allowing slot machines at racetracks.
Quinn has signaled that he is unlikely to sign the bill as it is but has kept quiet on what exactly he plans to do. He has held onto the bill for 60 days, the maximum time allowed after lawmakers send it to him. He could approve it, veto it or use his power of amendatory veto to strike down or change parts he doesn't like.
The governor declined to talk in detail about it Monday.
"I've read just about everything I have to read," he said. "It's important on an issue of this magnitude to look at every side and read all the pages. I'll make it clear tomorrow where I stand."
At stake is a proposal that could bring in between $300 million and $1 billion a year, according to estimates. Supporters say casinos would bring an estimated 100,000 jobs to Illinois and boost tourism. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel supports a city casino.
But those opposed to the plan say more casinos could saturate some markets, while others are concerned about the social costs.
The proposal would establish a city-owned Chicago casino with spots for 4,000 people to gamble at once. It also would add riverboat casinos in Danville, Park City, Rockford and an undecided location in Chicago's south suburbs. Each riverboat casino would have 1,600 gambling positions, and Illinois' 10 existing casinos could expand.
Earlier attempts at expanding gambling in Illinois have failed. Lawmakers approved a similar plan last year but did not send the plan to the governor, who had threatened a veto.
Quinn, who isn't opposed to gambling on principal, has said he wants a bill with stronger ethical protections. That includes barring the gambling industry from making political contributions.
"Everybody should be concerned about ethics in our state. We have two governors, my predecessors, both in jail. That's a pretty darn important issue for our state to have integrity at all times in every part of government, and that includes regulating casinos," he said Monday. "It must be airtight when it comes to protecting the public."
In response, lawmakers also filed a so-called trailer bill to address some of Quinn's concerns. However that wouldn't be considered unless the initial law is signed, and Quinn has said he'd rather get all the legislation signed at once.
Quinn has kept his deliberations on the gambling proposal private.
"I have no idea what his plan will be," said Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat who sponsored the bill.
The bill is SB1849.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)