Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Quinn: Gaming negotiations aren't taking place

By Jamey Dunn 

Gov. Pat Quinn said today that he is not negotiating when it comes to a gaming expansion in Illinois.

Quinn told reporters in Chicago today that lawmakers who want more gambling in the state have two options: Pass a bill based on his ideas; or send him the bill they passed last spring. “I’d be happy to take it, veto out the defects and flaws and put in the good important things and send it back to them,” Quinn said. In the hopes of working out a plan that Quinn and lawmakers could live with, Senate President John Cullerton used a parliamentary procedure to hold the bill from going to the governor’s desk. But when asked today if he was working on a compromise with lawmakers, Quinn said, “I don’t think the word negotiate is appropriate.”

He reiterated his call for Cullerton to send Senate Bill 744 to his desk. “This is rather unusual, to say the least, if you believe in what you voted for. Now if they want to send it to me, we’ll be very happy to apply my framework to their bill. And my framework will emphasize integrity and honesty.”

Quinn said he would support five new casinos but could not back allowing horse racing tracks to have slot machines. He said he wants more oversight of the proposed Chicago casino and he wants an option that would require local governments to opt into legalizing video gaming in some bars and restaurants. Legalized video gaming is one of the founding sources of funding for the state’s capital construction program. Quinn’s proposal would likely reduce potential revenues once the program was implemented. Quinn also wants to give the gaming board unlimited time to vet businesses owners seeking to offer video gaming. SB744 allows for probationary licenses for applicants 60 days after they apply.

Sen. Terry Link presented a bill during the first week of veto session that he says is based on the governor’s ideas. The governor did not agree. “The bill was not our framework," Quinn said today. "Charades and playing games on any subject are inappropriate, in my opinion. The legislature should be serious about its work. They tried to do a kind of a charade their last week, and we called them out on it.”

Link, who also sponsors SB744, said today that he has tried to pass a gaming expansion for years and has backed several different versions of the idea. “These we’re his ideas; these were his thoughts,” he said about the governor. “We weren’t trying to do a charade. We were trying to see if there was a will out there for this [to pass in the legislature. The point is that we’ve tried different ways — with or without the track, with the casinos owning the slots at the tracks. … We’ve tried every which way you could conceivably think of.”

Link, a Waukegan Democrat, said he held the bill, SB747, from a floor vote last week at Quinn's request. “The governor called and didn’t want it and [said] he wants to talk.” But Link said that meeting has not materialized. ‘We have done everything in our power to try to set up [meetings] and discuss these things. I just hope that the governor doesn’t get to this point where he wants to draw a line in the sand.”

Quinn explained today that while he is “open-minded” about gaming, it is not a priority for him.

“It is up to the legislature,” Quinn said. “My interest is not to promote gambling. That is not my foremost goal in Illinois. I don’t think you can gamble your way to prosperity.”

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