Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

April 1, 2013

Gov skeptical about gaming expansion


However, other prominent Democrats point out that it isn't a new idea, and say Illinois already has been a national leader.

When Illinois became the first state to sell lottery tickets online last year, Senate President John Cullerton introduced legislation that would create a Division of Internet Gaming within the state lottery. Under his proposal, that new division would have made Illinois the first state to jump into the world of online gambling.

But that proposal didn't get much traction, and three states — Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey — since have legalized Internet gambling, though none has it up and running. The process in those states also was fraught with questions of regulation, something Quinn's office says needs to be watched closely before Illinois can approve it.

But Link, who has sponsored gambling legislation for about half a dozen years, says it only makes sense because people are doing it online illegally, and legalizing it would help bring profits to the state. The new proposal would also give oversight to Illinois Lottery officials, who didn't return messages seeking comment.

The proposal calls for splitting profits, between treatment programs for problem gamblers and the pension problem. Supporters estimate the profits that would go toward the state's public pension system could exceed $50 million.

"This is the only revenue-generating bill that's been introduced," Link said.

The casinos — including in Rockford, Danville, Chicago's south suburbs and Lake County — are estimated to generate between $400 million and $1 billion, and the bulk of the money would be allocated to the state's Education Assistance Fund, after the local communities receive a share of the profits. Some of the profits from slots would be used to help the state pay its backlog of billions in unpaid bills.

Those ideas seem to address exactly what Quinn outlined in his budget address.

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