Time Running Down for Illinois Gambling Expansion
As the state’s nearly $100 billion pension deficit suggests, Illinois lawmakers don’t have a problem putting things off.
But with a firm deadline approaching in the form of the end of the current legislative session, proponents of expanded gambling are about to be forced to act, or wait for the fall.
Illinois’ session draws to a close on May 31st.
Possible movement on Illinois land-based casino expansion
The major gambling issue on the table is the addition of five new casinos in Illinois. Legislators have been debating the merits of adding more casinos to Illinois for years, but supporters appear to have tipped the balance (aided largely by the growing budget problems facing the state) and made such expansion an inevitability.
Governor Pat Quinn has made it clear that he won’t be signing any bill to expand gambling in Illinois unless he’s also presented with a bill to correct the state’s gaping pension hole. However, the Governor recently sounded optimistic notes regarding the ability of lawmakers to come to an agreement on pension reform before the session winds down, creating a possible opening for the gambling bill.
Casino causes political friction
As we reported last week, the slow progress on Illinois casino expansion has reportedly become a source of tension between Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. One of the planned new casinos would be situated in downtown Chicago, and Emanuel has high hopes for the revenue from that new entity to plug the city’s own financial holes – primarily with regards to education funding.
WIth Emanuel’s support, a casino bill would normally face less resistance from Quinn. But it does not appear that the Emanuel’s influence is sufficient to outweigh the concern Quinn – who faces a potentially competitive election in 2014 – has regarding the state’s unpopular budget woes.
And while a new Chicago casino may be politically palatable for Emanuel, Quinn must also contend with a number of critics opposing gambling expansion in Illinois.
Illinois online gambling less likely to see action
For a brief time, online gambling expansion was tied to the larger land-based casino expansion bill. But that relationship proved too controversial, and the online gambling provisions of the bill were removed, reportedly at the behest of the racing industry in Illinois.
State Senate President John Cullerton has indicated that he plans to revisit online gambling regulation. But while the draft of the bill was floated some two weeks ago, it has yet to be formally introduced.
Quinn has yet to take a strong stance with regards to online gambling. He’s referred to it in cautious terms, but never in overtly negative ones. But when you add that additional roadblock to the limited time available and the existing opposition to online gambling, it begins to seem less and less likely that an online gambling regulation bill will advance before the current session in Springfield concludes.
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