Illinois Gambling Expansion Bill Dies in House; May Resurface This Fall
A bill that would have allowed five new land-based casinos in the state of Illinois died in the state’s House of Representatives on Friday, which was the very last day of the legislative session, and one that saw much wrangling on a variety of topics.
The bill’s sponsor in that chamber, State Representative Bob Rita, announced the demise of the bill, but said that work would continue on the measure in the coming months, and that it would be re-introduced during the autumn session.
Legislators grappled with many important issues on final day of session
The bill, which is known as SB1739, was just one of a host of controversial topics taken up by the Illinois State House of Representatives on its final day before breaking for summer recess, among them gay marriage, fracking, and concealed carry.
The gay marriage and casino expansion bills failed to gain traction with legislators, with neither bill even being called to a vote.
Meanwhile, the House did pass measures that will allow for so-called fracking, which is a controversial and potentially environmentally harmful method of extracting gas from the earth, and for Illinoisans to carry concealed weapons. Illinois was the last state in the nation to disallow licensed firearms owners to carry them in a concealed fashion; the bill now goes to the state’s governor, Pat Quinn.
No casino bill means no casino for Chicago
The failure of the casino bill means that there will be no casino built in downtown Chicago, at least not for the time being. That city was one of the five that was promised a casino property under the proposed bill, and it was something for which Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, heavily lobbied.
Emanuel, currently under fire due to the recently approved plan to close forty-nine public schools in the city, most of which served underprivileged neighborhoods with a predominantly minority population, had said on several occasions that monies generated by the Chicago casino would be put toward the ailing school system, the nation’s third largest.
Currently, the closest casinos to the Chicago metropolitan area are just across the border in Indiana, with those properties running frequent shuttles to collect gamblers from the city.
Unlikely Governor would have signed the bill into law
Had the House called a vote on SB1739, passed it, and sent it along to Governor Quinn’s desk, it is a strong possibility that he would not have signed it. Just as Emanuel repeatedly reinforced his position that a casino was a crucial step in righting the city’s struggling and underperforming schools, for his part Governor Quinn was steadfast in his resolution that he would not sign a gambling expansion bill unless lawmakers were able to successfully reform Illinois’ massively underfunded public pension system.
No progress was made on that front during the Spring term, meaning that SB1739 was likely to be vetoed in the event that it was passed. Quinn, historically opposed to gambling expansion in the Land of Lincoln, has vetoed several similar measures in the past.
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