Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

April 1, 2013

Gov skeptical about gaming expansion


CHICAGO (AP) — Lawmakers pushing to expand gambling in Illinois hope the third time is a charm with a more finely tuned proposal that could make Illinois the fourth state to allow Internet gaming.

The latest proposal includes some familiar ideas: five new casinos, including one in Chicago; thousands of slot machines, including at Chicago's two airports. But it also includes Internet gambling, which would allow Illinois residents to play games like black jack on their computers or smart phones.

The biggest obstacle to adding more casinos and slot machines in Illinois has been Gov. Pat Quinn, who has twice rejected proposals sent to his desk, citing a lack of ethical safeguards, regulation and oversight.

Lately, the Chicago Democrat has signaled that he's open to the idea, even mentioning it in his March budget speech. And the new bill addresses some of Quinn's concerns by including a ban on political contributions from the gambling industry, appointing an inspector general to monitor gaming and giving the state gaming board more authority over a Chicago casino.

"The stars are probably lining up better than they've ever lined up," said Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat who's a lead sponsor of the legislation. "We're doing a lot of the things that the governor wanted."

But the new proposals still could be held up because of the state's focus on fixing its nearly $100 billion pension problem — which Quinn has said must be the higher priority. There's also the governor's skepticism of so-called "iGaming," which the bill's supporters say might be an option to help fix the state's financial problems.

"There hasn't been much review on that at all," Quinn told reporters last week. "Any time you have something brand new, it shouldn't just be thrown into a bill at the last minute."

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