Gambling expansion looking unlikely this spring: Hays

Gambling expansion looking unlikely this spring: Hays

SPRINGFIELD — It's looking unlikely that a gambling expansion bill, including a casino in Danville, will be called for a vote in the General Assembly this spring, state Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, said Wednesday.

Hays, a longtime supporter of expanded gambling and a casino in Danville, made his remarks after the sponsor of the gaming bill said he wouldn't revise the legislation to meet the demands of the chairman of the state gaming board.

Gaming board Chairman Aaron Jaffe said that the Chicago casino should be segregated into its own separate piece of legislation, apart from the bill covering four other proposed casinos, plus slot machines at horse racing tracks.

The sponsor of the gambling expansion bill, state Rep.Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, said Jaffe's suggested change "would kill the bill."

The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn Friday night, leaving just three days to resolve the dispute plus other issues.

"I think it remains to be seen if there's a gaming bill called this week," Hays said. "I think it looks increasingly possible that there will not be a bill called this week, and that the details will continue to be worked out over the summer.

"I would not be surprised if a gaming bill was not called before the end of the evening Friday. It's certainly possible, but it would not surprise me."

After the gaming legislation cleared a House committee Wednesday morning, Rita said, all of its language had been stripped and new details would be added in the next few days.

But Hays noted that Gov. Pat Quinn has neither embraced the gaming expansion nor been involved in its negotiations.

"I do think there is value in having a bill negotiated that the governor feels he can sign, because twice before we had a bill that he would not sign," Hays said.

Democratic Party politics may also be a factor in the stalled negotiations, Hays said.

"You can't forget the politics of this thing. You've got a governor who likely will not be supported by the mayor of Chicago and may end up running against the speaker's daughter, so the governor may be less inclined than ever before to do any favors for those who are going to oppose him," Hays said of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and House Speaker Michael Madigan and his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

"If Rahm is going to support someone else for governor, what is (Quinn's) incentive to do him a big honking favor here at the 11th hour?"

Hays said it's possible a gambling expansion bill could be developed over the summer and voted on in the fall veto session.

"I think if there's not a bill called now, by the fall veto session a lot of things will be known politically. It will be known by then who the candidates are in the governor's race."

Rita questioned whether Jaffe's criticisms of the bill were his own, or were from Quinn.

"You come out and make statements this late in the game and come to the final hour and say that Chicago should be out of this, that comes out of nowhere," Rita said. (Doing that) "would kill the bill, and my intention is to not kill the bill. My intention is that Chicago stays in the bill with the framework that there are five casinos: Danville, Lake County, Rockford, the south suburbs and Chicago."

A spokeswoman for Quinn denied that the governor was behind Jaffe's statement.

"We're not pushing for that," said spokeswoman Brooke Anderson. 

She said the governor's office had promoted stronger ethics measures and more oversight, but was not behind the suggestion that the Chicago casino be separated from the rest of the gambling expansion legislation.

Rita said the gambling expansion would be "a multibillion-dollar economic boost to the state," with funds going to education and the payment of the state's backlog of bills.

But he said Jaffe and the gaming board want "total control" over the Chicago casino.

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