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Mayor, Governor ‘Very Close’ To Deal For Chicago Casino

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (left) and Gov. Pat Quinn (right) discuss negotiations on legislation that would bring a land-based casino to Chicago, during an unrelated event at the University of Chicago on Nov. 30, 2012. (Credit: CBS)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (left) and Gov. Pat Quinn (right) discuss negotiations on legislation that would bring a land-based casino to Chicago, during an unrelated event at the University of Chicago on Nov. 30, 2012. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel both said Friday they are “very close” to reaching a deal that would bring a casino to Chicago.

This summer, Quinn vetoed a gambling expansion plan that would have brought a casino to Chicago, saying there were not enough ethical safeguards or regulatory oversight included in the measure. A separate gambling plan approved by lawmakers in 2011 was never sent to his desk because of a threatened veto.

Now, however, it appears Chicago is closer than ever to getting the casino tat former Mayor Richard M. Daley often sought, and that Emanuel has lobbied for since taking office.

The governor said he and the mayor met last week to discuss providing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, and a new statewide infrastructure construction program. He said they’ve also come close to an agreement to bring a land-based casino to Chicago, after more than 20 years of failed efforts to do so.

“I think that issue on gaming, I’m optimistic that, by the 9th of January, that we can come up with a bill that meets all of our criteria. The mayor and I are very close on the issue of strong regulation and ethics and making sure the money goes to schools and infrastructure. Isn’t that true?” Quinn said at an unrelated event at the University of Chicago about energy research at the Argonne National Laboratory.

The mayor agreed they’re close to a deal, but also sounded a note of caution.

“We are very close, but remember this has been 25 years in the making,” he said.”That said, on oversight and the type of issues like that, we are in alignment.”

The mayor said Quinn has agreed that 100 percent of the proceeds from the casino should go to school construction projects.

“All the money would go into modernizing our schools, building new additions, building whole new schools,” Emanuel said. “Building facilities that can handle … science, technology, engineering and math are going to be essential, so the kids coming out of the city of Chicago can one day go to the University of Chicago, one day be scientists at Argonne.”

The governor and mayor would not provide specifics on the ethics safeguards that would be included in the legislation.

Quinn has vetoed previous legislation to expand gambling in Illinois and bring a casino to Chicago, saying he wants a total ban on political contributions from casino owners and operators to Illinois elected officials. He’s also demanded any Chicago casino be overseen by the Illinois Gaming Board, like every other casino in the state, not by a new oversight group.

The mayor and governor did not discuss other specifics contained in recent gambling legislation that Quinn has opposed, including a measure to allow slot machines at race tracks, at O’Hare and Midway airports, or at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

A deadline has passed for the legislature to override Quinn’s veto of a gambling expansion bill earlier this year, and sponsors have said they’ve been trying to work with the governor to come up with an acceptable compromise.

Past measures also would have created four other new casinos – in the southern suburbs, Rockford, Danville, and Park City – and allowed the 10 existing casinos in Illinois to expand. Quinn has not voiced any opposition to those facets of gambling expansion.