Hopes Still Run High for Backers of IL Casino Expansion

Supporters of expanding brick and mortar casino gambling in the state of Illinois are preparing to do battle once more on the matter, with sponsors of failed past legislation determined to see the matter of increasing the number of land-based casinos in the Land of Lincoln move back onto the legislative agenda.

Indiana-based news site tribtown.com reported over the weekend that Illinois’ precarious fiscal circumstances make it ripe for such consideration, even though 2014 is an election year.

Previous legislation failed to make it to a vote

Last year, a bill known as Senate Bill 1739 (SB1739) failed to make it to a vote in the Illinois House of Representatives before time expired on the spring legislative term.

That bill called for the construction of five new brick and mortar casinos in the state of Illinois and also would have permitted the installation of slots machines in horse tracks statewide as well as in the two major Chicagoland airports, O’Hare and Midway.

The five new casinos would be sprinkled in and around the Chicago area, with a casino also proposed for a downtown Chicago location. Chicago is the nation’s third-largest city, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff, has been an especially vocal proponent of the Chicago casino, having said in the past that revenue generated by the property would be used to help the long-ailing Chicago public school system.

New legislation bears a resemblance to last year’s unsuccessful measure. It also ensures that companies in Illinois that operate land-based casino properties would be eligible to apply for a license to run real money online poker and casino sites should the state follow in the footsteps of Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey and regulate Internet wagering.

Election year could put a kink in the plan

However, the governor of Illinois, Democrat Pat Quinn, has not shown himself to share his party-mate Emanuel’s enthusiasm for increasing the casino options in the Land of Lincoln.

Despite Quinn’s well-known opposition to casino expansion – he has twice in the past vetoed legislation to broaden the scope of betting in Illinois – there are many in the state who see the time as right for such legislation, despite the fact that the governor faces re-election this coming November.

Quinn has often compared casino expansion to “dessert” and last year repeatedly entreated lawmakers to focus on the state’s public pension deficit crisis. Having addressed that issue with the passage of a law, there are many who believe that Quinn may now be amenable to signing such a measure into law.

“I believe there’s an opportunity to pass a bill that the governor will sign.¬†Having said that, it’s a timing issue. There’s an election year, and gaming is a difficult issue at best,” said state Representative Lou Lang of Skokie, a Democrat who has long backed the casino expansion legislation.

State remains cash-strapped

Other casino backers pointed to Illinois’ still desperate need to generate revenue. Illinois, a state long infamous for its deeply entrenched corruption, can boast of having the worst credit rating in the nation and is often compared to the city of Detroit when talk turns to financial impropriety.

“I think the time’s right.¬†It’s not only revenue for the state, it’s revenue for all of these (depressed) regions,” said Representative Bob Rita, a Democrat who is a sponsor of pro-casino legislation.

As for Governor Quinn, he has said that he is not all out opposed to signing a casino bill into law, but believes that strict oversight must be in place before such action is a good bet for Illinois.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on BestOnlineCasinos.com, USPokerSites.com, and LegalUSPokerSites.com

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