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Quinn Won’t Sign Gambling Bill, Wants Scaled-Back Plan

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Gov. Pat Quinn (Credit: CBS)

Gov. Pat Quinn (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED: Oct 17, 2011, 5:30 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. Pat Quinn won’t sign a massive gambling expansion bill is proposing, in its place, a scaled-back alternative that would still put a casino in Chicago.

“You can’t expand too much,” Quinn said at a news conference on Monday. “You cannot have over-saturation.”

Although Quinn said he supports five new casinos for the state, as CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, the governor’s opposition to allowing slot machines at Illinois racetracks, the State Fairgrounds and at O’Hare and Midway International Airports means that passage of any gambling expansion is highly unlikely.

The governor said he would veto the gambling bill as it now exists.

“If this bill arrives, it will be vetoed,” Quinn said. “And I want to make that crystal clear. I laid out the defects. There are too many, far too many. So it will not receive my approval.”

Quinn said that his principal concern was that the legislation would create 14 new gambling sites: five new casinos; plus allowing slot machines at Illinois racetracks, at O’Hare and Midway airports, and at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

“The bottom line is I’m the goalie. I’m the final word and we’re not going to have a willy-nilly gambling bill in Illinois that is not protecting integrity. It is way too big and excessive and doesn’t provide adequate revenue for education. That will not happen,” Quinn said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports

Lawmakers approved the gambling expansion bill this spring, but Quinn has long indicated he would veto the legislation. Until Monday, he had not laid out his specific objections. Despite approving the legislation in May, lawmakers had yet to send it to Quinn’s desk, fearing his veto.

The governor said Monday that he prefers to scale back the gambling expansion plan to only five new casinos — in Chicago, southern Cook County, Lake County, Rockford and Danville — but without all the new slot machines outside of traditional casinos. His alternative would also put one of the five new casinos in Lake County, not Park City as lawmakers had proposed.

“Casino gambling at racetracks – and having casinos at racetracks – I do not support that, our proposal doesn’t support that, the framework doesn’t support it,” Quinn said.

Quinn also said he doesn’t want Chicago regulating its own casino contracts or overseeing operators. He wants the Illinois Gaming Board to keep oversight of all Illinois casinos, including a Chicago casino.

“I do not think we should have a second regulatory authority just for Chicago. The Illinois Gaming Board has good staff, good leadership. They know what they’re doing,” Quinn said. “The Illinois Gaming Board has been around for 20 years. It has an exemplary record and it needs to have total, complete oversight with proper authority in order to regulate gambling.”

Quinn said lawmakers should draw up new legislation, rather than continuing to pursue the larger gambling bill they approved in the spring, but have yet to send to his desk. He said he would veto that legislation if it is sent to him.

But the problem is that, without the support of horse-racing industry advocates who want slot machines at the tracks, the principal sponsor of the gambling expansion bill said there aren’t enough votes to pass an alternative.

“Without having slot machines at the racetracks, not only is it gonna cost us jobs and revenue, but we won’t be able to pass the bill,” State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) said. “Impossible, in my opinion – and therefore, we won’t have any gaming bill. Now, for some, that’s a great idea and some have already called me to suggest that maybe the governor did this because he knows it won’t pass. I’m hoping that’s not the case.”

Asked if he believed lawmakers could hammer together an acceptable compromise during the upcoming fall veto session, Quinn said, “if they can work together to propose legislation along the lines of the framework I’ve outlined, it could be done in the near future, but if it takes longer, so be it.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel had lobbied heavily for a package which would include a Casino for Chicago.

“We are encouraged that the governor has come forward with a proposal. We are anxious to work with him and the leadership in the Illinois General Assembly so that we can soon begin creating tens of thousands of jobs for Chicagoans and make the investment in the city’s aging infrastructure that will secure a successful future for Chicago,” the mayor’s office said in a prepared statement on Monday.

Lang, who’s been working on the issue for 20 years, also said he would work with his fellow lawmakers to get a Chicago casino approved as soon as possible.

“At some point in time, the city of Chicago’s going to have a publicly owned casino. It might as well be now,” Lang said. “Let’s do it right, and let’s do it now, and let’s put people to work and let’s bring tourists and trade shows and conventions back to the city of Chicago and put people to work.”

Each side, the governor and lawmakers, has accused the other of negotiating in bad faith.

It appeared Emanuel was trying to play peacemaker on the gaming bill, but without the governor giving in on the slots for racetracks, it looks like the gambling expansion plan will fail and Chicago will remain without a casino for now.

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