SPRINGFIELD -- If Gov. Pat Quinn’s actions on a multi-part expansion of gambling in Illinois echo his public statements, the entire package could collapse.

SPRINGFIELD -- If Gov. Pat Quinn’s actions on a multi-part expansion of gambling in Illinois echo his public statements, the entire package could collapse.

And away would go $1.6 billion in licensing and other fees that the additional casinos and slot machines are projected to generate for state government in the next fiscal year.

Quinn has said previously the gambling bill lawmakers passed in May is “excessive,” but that he could support legislation to put a casino in Chicago.

The measure was crafted using a careful political calculus. Five new casinos (Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Park City and one in the south Chicago suburbs) and additional slot machines were added in order to attract enough votes from lawmakers throughout Illinois for the bill to pass. Key downstate legislators interviewed last week said if Quinn tries to eliminate some or all of the five new casinos or veto the addition of slots at racetracks, the bill might not survive.

Under the Illinois Constitution, the governor could use his amendatory veto powers to strike provisions from it. A majority of lawmakers then would have to agree for Quinn's version to become law. A three-fifths majority would have to vote to override Quinn in order for the bill to become law as it was originally approved.

Both instances would present difficulties.

Delicate balance

Some lawmakers whose districts received casinos or have major agricultural interests said they would not vote to ratify Quinn's changes if he removes a casino from their district or slot machines from horse tracks. The bill passed with little room for error in the first place — 65 House members voted for it, five more than a majority. A bare majority — 30 members — voted for it in the Senate.

Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, said he won’t vote for any bill that does not place slot machines at racetracks. The racetracks say the slots will help them offer more prize money to horsemen, whose presence in Illinois helps the agriculture industry. Harness racing and slot machines would also be added at the Illinois State Fairgrounds under the bill.

"I wouldn't have voted for it if it didn't have slots at the racetracks," Poe said. "I've got an agricultural background. It's a lot bigger business than people realize. There's a lot of jobs that surround horseracing. We're just losing that industry.

"In that main gaming bill, excluding the fairgrounds, there's a lot of money going to (university) extension (programs), water conservation. There's a lot going to rehabilitate 4-H, county fairs. I think that brought a lot of downstaters onboard that wouldn't have been with that. I don't think it would have passed without that."

In addition to Poe, Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, and Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, voted for the bill.

 

It's about jobs

A new casino was added to economically depressed Danville, helping attract votes from Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, and Sen. Michael Frerichs, D-Champaign.

       "When you look at the economic distress a community like Danville has been in for a long time, double-digit unemployment for many, many years, this is much less about gaming and it's much more about economic development," Hays said. "For us, it really is about the infusion of upfront investment and about the jobs.

"If somehow we had this dynamic where the downstate interests were ignored entirely, I can't imagine there would be a scenario in which there would be enough votes in the House to concur with anything."

Still, Hays might not stick with other downstate lawmakers if Danville is in a version that Quinn otherwise changes.

“I think that puts downstaters in a very tough box,” he said. “For me, in some ways you have to vote your district. If the Danville casino's in, I will likely vote yes. Not ‘likely’ — I will vote yes."

Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said he hopes downstate lawmakers unite regardless of what the governor does. Under the bill, Rockford is set to receive a casino. Rockford-area lawmakers — Syverson, Rep. Chuck Jefferson, D-Rockford, and Rep. Dave Winters, R-Shirland — all voted for the bill.

       "Areas like Danville and Rockford… aren't near other casinos, so I don't know where that saturation issue would be," Syverson said. "I hope all these communities would stick together because it took all of them working together to pass it. I hope they would all stick together and make it clear that if they go after one community, it's like going after everybody.

      

‘Open to discussions’

To override the governor, 71 votes would be needed in the House and 36 would be necessary in the Senate. Some lawmakers voted against the bill because it contained a Chicago casino. Syverson said voting to override a gubernatorial veto "wouldn't necessarily be a vote to support the gaming." He does not believe overriding any veto or amendatory veto from Quinn is outside the realm of possibility.

“There were a number of votes that could have gone for it but in the end figured that there were going to be enough votes," Syverson said. "There could have been more."

As of last week, it was unclear what direction the governor is headed. He and his staff will review the bill, a spokeswoman said, but she declined to say whether an amendatory veto is under consideration.

“The governor is open to discussions with members of the General Assembly and the public about the gaming bill, but no firm decisions can be made until the governor has a chance to thoroughly review the bill itself," said Annie Thompson. "This is a 400-plus page piece of legislation with numerous aspects that must be examined: economic impacts, regulation, revenue, consumer protection and public safety, among others."

Chris Wetterich can be reached at (217) 788-1523.

 

What downstate got in the gaming bill

If it becomes law, the gambling expansion bill is expected to bring in $1.6 billion in licensing and other fees to the state during the 2012 fiscal year, which begins July 1. After that, it is expected to bring in up to $1 billion in revenue annually.

The revenue would be shared among the state and local communities. Some revenue is earmarked for specific needs downstate and to create a new funding stream for programs trimmed or cut entirely from the state’s general revenue fund.

--$5 million annually would go to assist county fairs that showcase Illinois agriculture products or byproducts.

--$100,000 would supplement premiums offered in junior classes at county fairs.

--15 percent, or an estimated $6 million annually, of a racino’s slot machine receipts would assist races at county fairs.

--$50,000 would be used for drug testing at county fairs racing standardbred horses.

--$10 million would go to soil and water conservation districts.

--$4 million would go to the State Cooperative Service Trust Fund for grants for cooperative extensions.

--$2.5 million would go to the Parks and Conservation Fund for costs associated with the state’s historic parks.

--$2.5 million would go to the Illinois Historic Sites Fund for costs associated with the state’s historic sites.

--$1 million would go to the Illinois Forestry Fund for costs associated with the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program Forestry Assistance Program.

-- $250,000 would go to the Quarter Horse Fund for purses.

-- $150,000 would go to botanical garden maintenance.