SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) –Illinois lawmakers have approved a major expansion of legalized gambling for the second year in a row. But there’s little indication last year’s roadblock Gov. Pat Quinn is willing to let it through this time.
The Senate voted 30-26 late Thursday in favor of a proposal that would create five new casinos a land-based site in Chicago and four more on riverboats.
It also would allow for the first time slot machines at horse racing tracks. That ailing industry wants additional opportunities to bring in gambling dollars.
The bill could produce at least $300 million in tax revenue for the state annually. Proponents say that could go as high as $1 billion a year, not counting a one-time infusion of more than $1 billion from licensing and a special tax.
Critics argued that the state gambling market is saturated and that new casinos would just take business from the 10 existing ones approved two decades ago.
But the state is already losing to other states, said Sen. Dave Syverson, a Republican from Rockford, which would get one of the boats.
“Illinois is under attack economically,” Syverson said. “There are five states around us that are working ad nauseam to take our jobs, take our tourism dollars, and frankly, they’ve been successful doing that.”
The measure would create the state’s first nonfloating casino in what promises to be a tourist jewel for Chicago. Besides Rockford, riverboat casinos would go in Danville, Park City north of Chicago and at a yet-to-be-determined site in the south suburbs of Chicago.
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, flatly predicted Quinn will veto the bill. He said senators would then pass another version of the measure.
The Legislature adopted a similar measure last year but never sent it to Quinn because he said he’d veto it. Backers said they included 8 of the 12 ideas Quinn suggested for improvement over last year’s version. But when the new model won House approval last week, Quinn called it weak, with too little oversight and too much opportunity for political corruption.
“If you have more gambling, you’ll have more revenue, more slots, more casinos and more jobs, but you’ll also have more bankruptcies, more suicides, more gambling addicts, more child abuse …,” said Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon. “If you want `more,’ then vote for this bill.”
Scott Eisenhauer, mayor of Danville on the Indiana border, said his community already has its share of crime and poverty it’s unable to combat.
“This at least gives us some of those financial resources that social agencies need in order to combat some of these challenges,” Eisenhauer said.
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