The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

February 11, 2014

Gaming backers hopeful in 2014

Push almost same legislation for 5 casinos

(Continued)

Rita, who has been conducting a series of public hearings around the state, says the legislation could be changed to "address regional concerns," including some that surfaced last month during a forum in East St. Louis.

That city's top officials, along with executives with the Casino Queen, cautioned against allowing slot machines coveted by the struggling nearby Fairmount Park horse track, saying slots at the racetrack would eat into the local tax revenue the casino provides the city.

That discourse was cordial, but it reflects the divide Rita may have to bridge in gathering broader support for his expansion efforts.

Still, Rita said, his measure's framework and its main components are expected to remain the same as the bill that failed to get traction last spring.

"I think the time's right," he said. "It's not only revenue for the state, it's revenue for all of these (depressed) regions."

Brooke Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Democratic governor running for re-election, said Quinn only will support expanded gambling if it includes ethical oversight and "will never compromise when it comes to keeping corruption out of the gaming industry."

Link said this year's bill would include ample money for oversight. He also promised it would be much more streamlined than the 500-page previous version that Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe has called a "Christmas tree bill."

"It can get so top heavy that nobody wants to be a supporter," Link said. "... Everyone thinks we're going to be making billions of dollars off of this. The whole point of this is to try to get money for schools and possibly a capital development bill."

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont wants even more limits in place and a better evaluation of the impact of video gaming machines at restaurants and bars around the state. Yet, with Democrats' current veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate, Radogno said she expects the proposal will be pushed this year.

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