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Quinn Calls Gambling Expansion Bill ‘Excessive’

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Gov. Pat Quinn

Gov. Pat Quinn says a bill that would dramatically expand casino gambling in Illinois is “excessive.” (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED: 6/1/2011 3:45 p.m.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday called the pending gambling expansion bill “excessive.”

Quinn said he will spend the next few days examining the bill, which has been approved by both houses of the Illinois General Assembly. The bill is now on his desk to sign or veto.

The governor’s remarks on the bill were decidedly disapproving.

“The people of Illinois do not want an excessive gambling bill that’s top-heavy, and I think I reflect the public sentiment on that,” Quinn said. “I think there are parameters that if they were followed, it might offer an opportunity to do this in a proper way.”

The state Senate voted 30-27 Tuesday in favor of the gambling expansion plan, which would be the largest such expansion in the state since the General Assembly voted to authorize casinos in 1990.

The plan would authorize a casino within the Chicago city limits, put slot machines at racetracks and the city’s airports, and add casinos in the suburbs. The plan would generate millions of dollars in revenue to help the state and city pay its debts, supporters say.

Quinn has indicated support for a Chicago casino, but opposes new suburban venues as well as slots at racetracks and airports, CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports

The new casino could go along the lakefront at the what many believe to be the most casino-ready location, though the operators of McCormick Place would like to keep conventions and a casino separated by a couple of miles.

It could also anchor the long overdue-renovation of the Congress Hotel, a great location scarred by labor strife for years.

But others believe a site farther from downtown, along the south lakefront, would both intercept Indiana-bound gamblers, while being far enough away not to compete with Chicago restaurants and other attractions.

Possible operators include MGM, Harrah’s and Wynn, but also a consortium of local hotel owners.

The vote represented a clear victory for new Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who helped turn the legislative tide in favor of the casino expansion package through a series of personal phones calls to rank-and-file lawmakers.

“I want to get this signed into law,” Emanuel said. “Then at the appropriate time, get a blue ribbon group to think through where, how and what makes the most sense.”

A Chicago casino could mean trouble for towns like Joliet–where two casinos are struggling from a downturn in the economy and a state wide smoking ban that sent many players to Indiana

Joliet Mayor Thomas Giarrante told CBS 2′s Vince Gerasole that competition from even a single Chicago casino translates into a loss of business, jobs and tax revenue.

Joliet’s gaming tax revenue peaked at $37 million in 2007. By 2010 it dropped to $21.5 million. If the complete gaming bill is passed, the town estimates it could lose $6 million more each year.

Suburban casino expansion is an even bigger concern for Giarrante.

“The casino industry is having problems as it is. There only so much money to be made out there in the gaming industry,” he said. “We are facing major problems in our budget and this is not going to help.”

Naturally Joliet’s casinos aren’t happy either.

“To add more gaming when the industry is already down is like trying to solve the housing crisis by flooding the market with more new homes,” said a Hollywood Casino spokesman.

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