By Jamey Dunn
Gov. Pat Quinn said that he does not plan to make a decision on a gambling expansion bill until his final day to act, which is Tuesday.
“I’ve been really looking at that bill. I will look at it really through the weekend. I probably won’t have a final answer until Tuesday,” Quinn told reporters in Chicago today. “It is a complicated measure. It’s about as thick as the Chicago phone book. And we're going through it line by line, and we have to because we found some things that need close intention.”
Quinn said his biggest concerns when looking at the bill are “ethics and integrity,” as well as “oversight of gamblers and gambling interests — casinos and casino owners.” The governor has called for a ban on campaign contributions from individuals with gaming interests, such as casino and racetrack owners.
The sponsor of Senate Bill 1849, Rep. Lou Lang, said he believes that such a ban would be unconstitutional. However, the Skokie Democrat said he would support legislation calling for such a ban if it would help to win Quinn’s support of his legislation.
SB 1849 would allow for five new casinos statewide: in Chicago, Park City, Danville, Rockford and in the south suburbs of Chicago. The location of the fifth casino would be decided by the Illinois Gaming Board. The bill includes slot machines at horse racing tracks but does not allow for slots at the Illinois State Fairgrounds or Chicago airports, which Quinn has spoken out against. The measure would also allow casinos to up their gaming positions from the current limit of 1,200 to 1,600. Quinn threatened to veto a similar expansion last year, calling it “massive." He has also voiced opposition to allowing slot machines at horse racing tracks.
Lang said that Quinn has never given him a clear description of the ethics measures he would like so see. “I’ve offered to meet with the governor anywhere, any time any place to discuss gaming issues and as of yet me offer has been ignored,” he said last week. “It’s impossible for me to draft legislation or make change in the bill to satisfy the governor, when the governor won’t tell me what those changes are. He’s made some vague references in the press about campaign donations and ethics.”
Quinn also said today,:“I always believe that the money should go to education. We have to make sure if we’re going to have any kind of gambling that the resources and revenues be used for important things that make a difference in our society.” SB 1849 would funnel money to other areas, such as agricultural programs and paying off some of the state’s billions in overdue bills owed to vendors, schools and providers.
Lang said that if Quinn does choose to sign the bill next week, “I’ll be the most surprised person in the Capitol.”
House Speaker Michael Madigan said last week that he does not think there will be an override if Quinn vetoes the measure.
But Lang disagrees. “I’m prepared for any eventuality. I’m prepared for a signature, a veto or an amendatory veto, and I think we’ll be able to override.”