Online Gambling Nixed from Illinois Casino Bill
This week the website capitolfax.com, a political blog devoted to the latest happenings in the Illinois statehouse, reported that the Internet gambling component of a casino expansion bill proposed in that state has been cut from the legislation. The move is apparently a two-pronged effort to appease both the state’s racetrack industry as well as its governor, Democrat Pat Quinn.
The President of the Illinois Senate has vowed to spin off the gambling provision into its own legislation, though a date when that bill might be expected was not disclosed. The gambling expansion bill, which calls for the creation of five new land-based casinos in Illinois, including one in Chicago’s urban center, is expected to pass through the Illinois State Senate and move to a final Senate vote within the next couple of weeks. The current legislative session terminates on May 30.
While the racetrack owners in Illinois are opposed to the regulation of Internet-based wagering, the operators of riverboat casinos in the state favor the provision, which would allow for the introduction of not only online poker rooms in the state, but other forms of regulated online wagering as well, including the typical suite of table games commonly found in land-based casinos.
Governor Quinn, meanwhile, has skewed against casino expansion during his term but has acquiesced in recent months as the state faces a potentially catastrophic $100 billion pension deficit and a shortfall for education funding as well. Publicly, he has not said whether he supports the current casino expansion bill, however earlier this he vetoed a similar bill that had originally passed the legislature’s muster back in 2011, however did not reach Quinn’s desk for nearly two years due to parliamentary maneuvering designed. At that time, he said that any gambling bill would have to be the right piece of legislation for the people of Illinois, though sources close to the Governor have suggested that he is not entirely comfortable with the idea of online gambling.
Meanwhile, the plan to put a casino in downtown Chicago has met with opposition despite the backing of the city’s first-term mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel has been unequivocal in his desire for the construction of such a property, saying that he believes a Chicago casino could bring in revenue that could be used to support the city’s school district, which is facing the closure of fifty-four schools as a budgetary measure. Currently, the closest casino to the downtown Chicago are is actually located across state lines in Indiana.
A plan released last week by the noted architecture firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill that calls for revamping the vacant Michael Reese Hospital campus on the city’s near south side by creating a mixed-used development that would house a casino resort with hotel and convention facilities along with President Obama’s presidential museum, was met with mixed reactions from area residents. The property, which has been vacant since 2008 and was declared contaminated a year later in 2009, would also contain housing and retail units. While local Bronzeville neighbors support the idea to establish Obama’s library in the neighborhood, some felt that the construction of a casino in the area would stymie future development.
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