The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

January 1, 2013

Another year, no gambling expansion

BY JENNIFER BAILEY
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — It was another frustrating year for proponents waiting for a casino license for the city.

November’s General Assembly veto session came and went without a veto-override of the gambling expansion bill that includes a casino in Danville.

Now Mayor Scott Eisenhauer and other supporters are hoping for a compromise and agreement to be reached with Gov. Pat Quinn in the lame duck session in early January.

Other issues that could come up too are legalizing gay marriage, pensions, medical marijuana and a plan to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

The General Assembly will meet from Jan. 2-9, up until the new 98th General Assembly is sworn into office at noon on Jan. 9.

State Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, acknowledges that the calendar is filling up for the legislators’ approximately five days.

House Speaker Michael Madigan had started discussions on crafting a new gambling expansion bill, but he again has taken himself out of negotiations.

State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and other legislative leaders are still trying to keep the discussions and bill process going, Hays said.

“We are making our case with Danville,” Hays said. “We still hope we can put something together.”

The best-case scenario is to get the needed 60 votes in the House, 30 votes in the Senate and Quinn signs it.

Hays, however, puts the chances at 50/50 that the bill will come up and be approved during this lame duck session.

“I am hopeful. We are working hard on it,” he said. “The discussion is very much alive, and Danville is very much part of the discussion. The case for Danville remains strong.”

“We put 11 new votes on it last spring,” Hays added about the bill. “We’re working very diligently on it. That’s our focus right now.”

Eisenhauer remains optimistic too for a gambling expansion bill to pass.

He continues to talk to political leaders in the Illinois House and Senate and ensure Danville remains part of any bill.

Pending issues will have to be re-introduced as new legislation.

It also only takes a simple majority, not a super majority, to pass legislation, which is a “level of comfort,” Eisenhauer said about the lame duck session.

Legislation needed three-fifths vote for passage during the veto session.

“I’m Mr. Optimistic,” Eisenhauer said. “I believe there is enough interest statewide.”

He added that the amount of revenue and jobs created is significant.

He believes a bill will be drafted and work through the process.

The latest casino he’s visited is Harrah’s in Joliet to see how it runs.

He said the casino runs smoothly and security has very few problems.

Gov. Pat Quinn in August vetoed Senate Bill 1849, a major gambling expansion plan that would have allowed five new casinos including one in Danville.

The proposed expansion included putting a land-based casino in Chicago and new riverboats in Danville, Rockford, near Waukegan and in southern Cook County.

Quinn cited a lack of oversight and an inadequate share of new revenues for public education.

For Danville, officials say a casino would mean: 300 construction jobs; 600-800 permanent jobs; and approximately $6 million in annual revenue just from the casino facility itself.

More revenue is expected from the sales tax, liquor tax, hotel/motel and food and beverage taxes.

Cost sharing of the casino revenue discussed: 50 percent to the city and 50 percent to Danville District 118, Danville Area Community College, Danville Area Convention and Visitors’ Bureau and municipalities throughout Vermilion County.