Illinois News

Will gambling be expanded in Illinois?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to make a decision on a gaming bill Tuesday.

With five new casinos - one to Chicago - and slot machines at the state's five racetracks, the number of gaming positions in Illinois would nearly triple to 32,000.

"We're not going to be a wide open state, the Las Vegas of the Midwest. That's not right," Quinn said on October 18, 2011.

From the get-go, the governor has been opposed to the bill, saying it lacks adequate ethical safeguards, and that slots at the tracks is the wrong way to go. But proponents say an anemic economy is evidence that Pat Quinn should change his mind.

The governor is not ready to play his hand. When he does tomorrow, he could veto the bill in its entirety or use his amendatory veto pen to keep the parts he can live with and throw out the parts he doesn't like.

"I don't like the bill at all, you know," he said.

Aaron Jaffe is chairman of the Illinois Gaming board, which is preparing to launch the start of video gaming in Illinois in a couple weeks, a massive logistical undertaking. If there were to be a green light for more casinos on top of that?

"We're tremendously overloaded. We'd have to more than double our staff," said Jaffe.

After it approved video gaming, the state general assembly took roughly six months before it appropriated any money to hire more gaming board investigators and regulators. Even now - with video poker about to start - Jaffe says the Gaming board staff has only two-thirds the manpower it needs.

"I don't see where the governor's gonna say hire 'em when he has no more money for education and they cut education by tremendous amounts of money," Jaffe said. "Certainly education takes precedence over casinos."

The governor's opposition to gaming expansion has been strongly worded in public, especially dealing with the placement of slot machines at racetracks. But the racing industry argues that slots are necessary for economic survival, and its pushing for Quinn to soften his position.

Gaming board chairman Jaffe for one says he'd be disappointed if the governor does soften his stand.

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illinois news, paul meincke
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