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Illinois Politics

Illinois Senate Approves Illinois Gaming Expansion; Prospects Uncertain in Illinois House

(Springfield, IL) — December 2, 2010. Reworked legislation to construct five new Illinois casinos, to boost the number of slot machines at existing Illinois river boats, and to add slots at Illinois racetracks yesterday cleared the Illinois State Senate 31-20-2, but faces uncertain prospects in the Illinois House and potential opposition from Governor Pat Quinn.

The Senate’s gaming point person, State Senator Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills), made crucial revisions to Senate Bill 737 to address concerns of both lawmakers in the Senate and House.

Link identified a number of new provisions to the bill–a bill which could generate nearly $1 billion annually for Illinois’ nearly bankrupt treasury–to win over wavering lawmakers, including minority legislators. Some of the legislative sweeteners include:

  • Economic development money for depressed communities
  • Minority and female hiring goals
  • Minority and female contract goals of 20% and 5% respectively
  • No designated south suburban location for one of the four proposed casinos outside of the City of Chicago, scrapping suburban Ford Heights’ earlier legislative claim on a casino
  • Financial hold-harmless for existing Illinois river boat casinos
  • No slots at Chicago O’Hare and Midway airports

Additionally, Link’s bill allocates $200 million to help pay a portion of the state’s $6 billion backlog of unpaid bills, aiming to leverage that money to capture federal matching dollars. A federal capture could top $1 billion, according to Link.

In the lower chamber, the measure’s fate is, however, decidedly unclear. Even though measure has been reworked to attempt to address the key concerns of Link’s House counterpart, Deputy Majority Lou Lang (D-Skokie), the veteran lawmaker is withholding judgment until he fully reviews the final package that may emerge from the Senate.

“I will review the Senate bill with an extra-fine tooth comb,” said Lang.

In addition to potential problematic policy provisions, the bill must sail past the political problems of some key House Democrats, problems that may be impervious to legislative fixes, such as the fact that some beneficiaries of gaming expansion heavily bankrolled GOP efforts to dislodge the House’s Democratic majority.

These influential Democrats have little appetite to reward those who tried to bounce them from office. Bill backers ignore this point at their peril.

In addition to House Democrats, Quinn has shown no public enthusiasm for the measure, pouring rhetorical cold water on the idea at every opportunity.

Stay tuned.

About David Ormsby

David, a public relations consultant and blogger at The Huffington Post, is an ex-Press Secretary of the Illinois Democratic Party.


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