Members of the Illinois Legislature will consider yet another version of a bill to expand gambling in the state. This one also includes a proposal to put a casino in Danville — kind of.
State Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, told The Associated Press he introduced the latest gambling expansion bill after action on previous similar bills had stalled. His version offers lawmakers two choices: allow one big casino in Chicago or allow a smaller casino in Chicago along with four other casinos — including one in Danville. Other than Danville and Chicago, the other casinos would be in a southern suburb of Chicago, Rockford and Lake County.
Expanded gambling is supported as a way to increase state revenue — advocates say by as much as $1 billion — for school funding and other projects along with creating construction jobs and businesses to enhance the casinos.
“We’ve got to take a different approach and all of the concerns that I’ve had, filing these two amendments will be the way to free up this logjam we’re in and take a different approach, scale this proposal down while concentrating on creating jobs and putting money into schools,” Rita told The Associated Press.
The potential benefit of a casino in Danville is obvious. The Danville Metropolitan Statistical Area — which includes all of Vermilion County — listed the highest unemployment rate in the state for February at 12.8 percent, and local schools have seen their amount of state funding shrink year after year as the General Assembly continues to fail to put its financial house in order.
The potential for lawmakers to just say, “Let’s just give a casino to Chicago and move on” looms large. No other potential casino site can muster the kind of voter power or lobbying influence that Chicago can put into play.