Alex Degam, Illinois Capitol Bureau

SPRINGFIELD, ILL (IRN) – Lawmakers are trying yet again to pass a gambling expansion bill, and the idea is gaining more support.

The measure picked up a 13 new “yes” votes since it was pulled from consideration a few months ago, and the sponsor says that’s proof there’s an appetite to expand gambling. New casinos in Chicago, Chicago’s south suburbs (an exact location has yet to be determined), Waukegan, Danville and Rockford are on the table – plus slot machines at racetracks.

State Rep. Dave Winters (R-Shirland)  says the time for economic development in north central Illinois is now.

“Wisconsin will probably build an Indian casino right on the border, (where) you can see Illinois,” he says. “The opportunity to capture Illinoisans on their way out-of-state will be gone forever.”

The governor has long opposed slot machines at racetracks, even though supporters say it’s just adding new gambling to places where gambling already exists. State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), the bill’s House sponsor, says the governor met with lawmakers last week but they couldn’t reach an agreement on the issue.

“Since we could not move forward together it was my choice to pass this bill,” says Lang. “As you can see with the vote total of 69 votes, it’s a very strong message that the Illinois House, and soon to be the Illinois Senate are very strong proponents of the measure exactly the way it’s written.”

Lawmakers passed a similar, slightly larger gambling expansion last year but it never made it to the governor’s desk. He had threatened to veto it because he didn’t want slots at tracks, and lawmakers didn’t pass the bill with a three-fifths majority which would have made it veto-proof.

The measure now heads back to the Senate which must approve the House’s changes.

The bill is S.B. 1849.

Copyright IRN


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