Gambling Expansion Talks May Surface Again in Illinois
Last Spring after a bill that would have put five new land-based casinos in the state of Illinois failed to come to a vote in the Illinois House of Representatives, proponents of gambling expansion in the Land of Lincoln said that the issue would be brought back up in the Fall.
With the start of a new legislative session this week, one of the bill’s sponsors says that he is renewing talks on the matter, this according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Hearing set for today
The House sponsor of the unsuccessful bill, State Representative Robert Rita, Democrat of Blue Island, hopes that a hearing set to take place today before the House Executive Committee will shed light on issues surrounding the collapse of the proposed legislation earlier this year, even though Rita admits that he doesn’t see a vote happening on the casino matter during the current session.
“Let’s put the attention back on what we had going … to ultimately pass a bill the governor will sign,” Rita was quoted by the Chronicle, referring to comments made on multiple occasions by the state’s historically anti-gambling governor, Democrat Pat Quinn, that he would not sign a casino bill that he believed to go against the best interests of the people of Illinois.
Illinois in desperate need of revenue boost
The bill that never made it to a vote, known as Senate Bill 1739, would have allowed for the installation of slot machines in the Chicago area’s two airports, O’Hare and Midway, along with clearing the way for the construction of five new land-based casinos. In addition to a casino planned for downtown Chicago, SB1739 would have permitted casinos to be built in Rockford, Danville, north suburban Lake County, as well as a casino location in Chicago’s south suburbs, not far from the Indiana border.
Supporters of adding new land-based casinos in Illinois point to the state’s urgent need to increase revenue, as it still grapples with a public pension deficit of $100 billion, the largest such shortfall in the United States. Illinois, a state long known for corruption and financial disarray, also has the distinction of having the worst credit rating of all fifty states.
Despite the massive budget problem the state is facing, this week Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said that calling the pension deficit a “crisis” needlessly inflates the seriousness of the issue.
“People really misunderstand the nature of this whole problem. Quite frankly, I don’t think you can use the word ‘crisis’ to describe it at the state level,” said Cullerton in a local news radio interview that aired this week.
For his part, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has said repeatedly that he expects lawmakers to focus on the pension matter above all else, having earlier this year compared casino expansion to dessert, remarking that legislators should focus on the “meat and potato” issue of solving the pension shortfall before turning their attention to casino proliferation.
Illinois has been discussed as having potential to regulate online gambling
While the future of land-based casino expansion in Illinois remains to be answered, there is also the matter of online gambling. As it appears that regulation of online poker and other forms of Internet-based gambling will occur on a state-by-state basis, Illinois is often mentioned as a state that may, in the near future, look at allowing residents to access real money gambling web sites.
Illinois is the fifth most populous state in the nation, and if Internet betting legislation were to pass, Illinois could represent a large slice of the regulated U.S. online gambling market. Such legislation, however, is not currently on the table in the Land of Lincoln, though there is talk of online gambling being tacked on to legislation having to do with online horse betting that is set to expire in January and will need to be re-approved by state legislators.