Gov. Pat Quinn today called for an overhaul of the widespread gambling expansion pending in the General Assembly, saying it needs to be scaled back.
The governor indicated he's OK with the five new casinos in Chicago, southern Cook County, Rockford, Danville and Lake County. But Quinn said he would not allow gambling at racetracks, the state fairgrounds, or atMidway or O'Hare International Airports, as the current legislation proposes.
The governor also wants to ban campaign contributions from gambling license holders and managers, and to beef up oversight of a Chicago casino with the Illinois Gaming Board. He is calling for changing the tax structure that increases breaks, saying it short-changes education.
"The current bill has major flaws in it," Quinn said, saying the bill is "just not acceptable."
"The bottom line is, we must do this right," Quinn said.
But the legislation passed by a small margin, so losing components of the gambling expansion plan might doom a new compromise version. Some lawmakers predicted Quinn's wide-ranging list of complaints effectively kills the package's prospects.
“This bill had a minimal amount of support for passage,” said Rep. Rich Brauer, a Springfield-area lawmaker. “So when you cut out certain parts of the state, then that bill will not have the same support that it had before. … It’s unfortunate the governor doesn’t realize he’s governor of the whole state of Illinois.”
Brauer said he voted for the measure because it included gambling at the Illinois State Fair and the money would have been split between the fair and numerous programs valued by downstaters. Among those programs are 4-H, Future Famers of America, the University of Illinois Extension Service and the soil and water conservation districts, he said, all areas supported by numerous downstaters.“This bill’s dead because there’s all of these Downstate votes that won’t support it now,” said Brauer, R-Petersburg. “That’s the end, end, end of a casino for Chicago.”
Quinn also wants to require communities in Illinois to opt in to allowing video gambling throughout Illinois. Currently the law allows for communities to have video gambling unless they opt out. He also would require licenses for video gambling to be fully vetted rather than give initial licenses that are allowed to be vetted more thoroughly later. Quinn previously signed the video poker measure into law as a way to pay for a statewide construction program.
When he said he would allow a boat in Lake County, Quinn specifically said "not Park City," the location expressed in the current legislation.
The governor said the current bill would be vetoed. But lawmakers have yet to send it to him out of fear that he would do so.
Quinn has spent the summer ticking off problems he has with the legislation, but today marked the first time he publicly spelled out what he would accept.
The governor's comments set the stage for next week's fall session, when lawmakers return to Springfield for the first of two weeks at the Capitol.
Quinn did make the anti-gambling crowd happy today.
Anita Bedell, executive director of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems, said Quinn went along with many of the concerns the longtime gambling opponent expressed. Those ranged from putting slot machines at racetracks, airports and the Illinois State Fairgrounds to expediting the implementation of video gambling around the state and installing a tax structure that went down as business at the casinos went up. But she said the group remained steadfast to any expansion of gambling.
“We’re asking our network to keep praying for the governor to stand strong, to withstand an expected increase in pressure,” Bedell said, saying that proponents of gambling are relentless. “What we’ve learned is, that no matter what happens, they always come back.”