Casino expansion looks more like sure bet

Casino expansion looks more like sure bet

SPRINGFIELD — What for years has looked like a long shot — an expansion of casino gambling in Illinois, including a facility in Danville — is looking more certain after an Illinois House vote on Wednesday.

Supporters of a plan to develop five more casinos in the state, on top of the existing 10, believe they have enough support even to overcome a possible veto by Gov. Pat Quinn. The bill also calls for permitting slot machines at race tracks to help the state's weaken horse-racing industry.

The Senate, though, may be a different story. A vote on the gambling expansion may not come there until next week, Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, said Thursday.

Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, who supports the gambling expansion legislation (SB 1849), said "I don't anticipate a problem passing it out of this chamber, but getting a veto-proof majority will require a little more work.

"The last time it came out of here, there were 31 votes, so that means picking up five new ones. That's possible, but it will require some work."

Advocates of casino gambling say they were heartened by the surprisingly strong vote in the House where there were 69 yes votes Wednesday. Two more votes would be needed to overcome a gubernatorial veto.

"I was very, very pleased with that," said Hays, whose House district includes Danville. "I know we have at least two more votes, and probably more, who say they will help us if we need to override a veto.

"We feel very, very good that there is a solid 71 votes to override a veto in the House."

Among the 69 yes votes Wednesday were three central Illinois Republicans who had opposed the gambling expansion before — Reps. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign; Adam Brown, R-Decatur; and Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth.

"The benefit of this bill," Barickman said, "are both the jobs that are created to Vermilion County specifically, but also the financial benefits brought to a number of different agricultural interests such as our 4-H, Extension, county fairs, soil and water conservation districts. All of those groups have expressed to me that funding of their operations must be addressed by Springfield. I came here looking for solutions and this is a solution that will bring some much-needed relief to them."

Brown offered a similar explanation.

"By no means am I a proponent of expanded gambling, but you take a look at this bill and the benefits to agriculture I think outweigh any detriments in the bill," said Brown, a freshman lawmaker. "When agriculture is the number one industry in our state I think it's got to be a priority, not only in this bill but in several other bills."

Both Barickman and Brown, as well as Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, said they would vote for an override if Quinn vetoed the bill. Until the recent past, Jakobsson had opposed any gambling expansion.

"Everyone knows we're in a crisis as far as our revenue, and I believe that by putting people to work and giving them jobs, they'll need fewer of our services. As people are working that will eventually balance things out.

"You know we talk about the social ills of gaming but look at the social ills of unemployment."

Hays said that for Danville, the casino bill "would mean several hundred jobs, several hundred million dollars invested in our community, 350 people going to work out of our labor halls."

Quinn said the gaming bill has "major ethical shortcomings," including the lack of a ban on campaign contributions from gambling interests. He also said that it "does not ensure clear oversight" of a proposed Chicago casino.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on May 24, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Have the legislators voted against their annual automatic raise yet?

sameeker wrote on May 25, 2012 at 5:05 am

It is about time to get this bill passed.. The governor had concernes with the last bill, and some of those concernes were well founded. He did not want slots at the fairgrounds, airports and horse racing tracks. He was also concerned that Chicago wanted to own and regulate their own casino. Under this bill, there will be no slots at the fairgrounds. I can live with that. Fairs are family events. Their will also be no slots at airports. I agree also. airports are for people traveling and slots would be out of place in them. Horse tracks would be allowed slots. This makes sense since they are adult gambling venues as it is. I strongly agree with the compromise that Chicago can own a casino; however, it must be regulated by the gaming comission like all others in the state.

For once, we are seeing constructive compromise on an issue. Quinn is getting more then most sides get in a compromise and it all sounds fair to me. With the state in so much financial trouble, this bill allows for an elective tax. If you don't want to pay the tax, you can choose not to gamble. Additional revenue will also be raised by having thousands more employed people in the state. Cuts alone are not sufficient to solve the problems, neiuther is raising the price on tobacco another dollar a pack. The economy needs to be fixed from the bottom up. This bill provides much needed jobs to Illinois residents and consumers.

I don't see the religious groups in Danville offering to hire 1,200 people. If they did, they would hire only people from their groups and require church attendence and donations as a condition of employment.I also doubt that tye will refuse any donations from the casino or those who patronize them. As a side note, I offer another suggestion. Put the casino in and dam the middlefork and create a huge lake. Danville would go from being a poverty town to being a huge tourist attraction. The increased expansion would allow vermillion county to keep their property tax rate at a fraction of what Champaign county is, and the schools would benefit through increased property values.

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I agree with you on the casinos.  People have a choice to gamble, or not.  The people of Danville have the right to decide if they want a casino, or not.  Hopefully, the money the state raises will not be spent on pork barrel projects that financially benefit individual legislators.

Bulldogmojo wrote on May 25, 2012 at 2:05 pm

We already have a casino in this area. Its called the University of Illinois. You bet your life and its a roll of the dice if you will walk away with your shirt or not.