SPRINGFIELD -- An Illinois Senate committee Thursday evening moved a Danville casino one step closer to reality with a 9-5 vote on a measure that would essentially double the amount of legalized gambling in Illinois.
The bill (SB 1849) calls for permitting five new casinos in the state -- at Danville, Chicago, Rockford, Park City and in the south Chicago suburbs -- plus allowing slot machines at Illinois' six racetracks.
Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer, a Danville casino supporter, was among those in the crowded Senate hearing room Thursday night. He did not get a chance to testify on the measure.
A full Senate vote on the measure is expected before midnight.
The House approved the gaming bill on May 23 by a 69-47 vote, with three East Central Illinois legislators who had opposed gaming expansion in the past voting for it this time.
The large margin was significant because it was nearly enough to provide sponsors with a veto-proof majority.
Senate sponsors have said they believe they have the votes to pass the bill in the Senate but perhaps not with the 36 votes needed to override a veto.
Among the opponents to SB 1849 was the governor's office and Tom Swoik of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, who noted that the recent opening of a casino in Des Plaines has meant losses at other gambling facilities in northeastern Illinois.
"We're not creating any new gamblers. The gamblers are being distributed more broadly," he said.
But Sen. Terry Link, the sponsor of the gambling bill, argued that the new casinos would take gamblers who now are going to casinos in Wisconsin and Indiana.
John Schomberg, general counsel in the governor's office, said Gov. Pat Quinn remains opposed to the increased gambling.
"The governor's largest concern continues to be the ethical shortfalls," Schomberg said. He decried the lack of a ban on political contributions by gaming licensees or applicants, and noted they exist in surrounding states.
He also said the bill lacks adequate oversight of the Chicago casino, and said the measure imposes "unreasonable and unrealistic deadlines" on the Illinois Gaming Board for licensing the new casinos.