Politics
11:38 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Rockford is one step closer to a casino

The Illinois House, in a 69 to 47 vote, has passed a gambling expansion bill that would create new casinos -- including one in Rockford -- and allow slot machines at the state's racetracks.

Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, says it will bring Illinois money it needs as the state faces steep budget cuts. Lang says that, as the budget process progresses, it’s clear the state isn't doing well enough.

“We haven't created enough jobs. We don't have enough revenue," he said. "Is this a panacea for all of our ills? Of course not.  Can it be step to build a better economy? Absolutely it can."

A gambling bill was passed by the legislature last year, but was never sent to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature. It included creating five new casinos, including one in Rockford and the first in Chicago. Illinois currently has 10 casinos.

Earlier this week, Quinn said Illinois couldn't afford to have lawmakers distracted from crucial issues by more talk of gambling expansion.A report released by the governor's office in November said a gambling expansion would bring in about $160 million in new annual revenue, not the $1 billion increase claimed by some. The bill passed Wednesday won't allow slots at airports or state fairgrounds.

Gov. Quinn issued a statement about the bill’s passage:

“It’s ironic that on the very day that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announced his resignation, the Illinois House would pass a gambling bill that continues to have major ethical shortcomings.

“This new bill falls well short of the ethics standards I proposed in my framework last October. Most importantly, it does not include a ban on campaign contributions as lawmakers in other states have done to keep corruption out of the gambling industry and out of Illinois. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and bordering states like Iowa, Michigan and Indiana have all approved such bans.

"It does not provide the Illinois Gaming Board with sufficient time to make critical licensing and regulatory decisions. This bill also does not provide adequate oversight of the procurement process. It does not ensure clear oversight of the proposed Chicago casino.

“As long as I’m governor, I will not support a gambling bill that falls well short of protecting the people of Illinois. It is clear that this gaming bill still needs significant improvement.

"Finally, Illinois cannot gamble its way out of our fiscal challenges. I urge the members of the Illinois House and Senate to pay close attention to the most pressing issues that we must address by next Thursday, May 31 –pension reform and Medicaid restructuring."