SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois House passed a major expansion of gambling on Wednesday, possibly with enough votes to override a veto by Gov. Pat Quinn. Quinn quickly objected to the proposal anyway.

SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois House passed a major expansion of gambling on Wednesday, possibly with enough votes to override a veto by Gov. Pat Quinn.


Quinn quickly objected to the proposal anyway.


The bill, Senate Bill 1849, would authorize new casinos in Chicago, Rockford, Danville, Park City and the south suburbs of Cook County and would allow slot machines at the state’s racetracks.


The bipartisan 69-47 vote was two votes shy of a veto-proof majority, but House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, voted “present.” That makes it likely that the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, can muster 71 votes if Quinn vetoes the bill. At one point during the roll call, 71 lawmakers voted “yes.”


“When this bill passes the Senate … the governor will have a decision to make,” Lang said after the vote. “I have a strong level of confidence that Governor Quinn, who has always said he is the jobs governor, will default to the side of jobs.”


Falls short


But Quinn, a Democrat, said the bill falls short of requirements for gambling expansion he laid out in October.


“As long as I’m governor, I will not support a gambling bill that falls well short of protecting the people of Illinois,” Quinn said in a statement. “It is clear that this gaming bill still needs significant improvement.”


Lang estimated that once the new casinos are open, the legislation would increase state revenues by $300 million to $1 billion a year. The governor’s office believes the take from expanded gambling would be much less.


The legislation also would raise $1.1 billion in one-time license and gaming position fees, according to Lang. That money could be used to pay off $8 billion-plus in overdue state bills. As much as $2 billion could be raised if the fee revenue is used to pay Medicaid bills, because those payments would be eligible for federal matching funds, Lang said.


Lawmakers Wednesday repeatedly cited the need to create jobs, recover gaming revenue lost to surrounding states and bolster the state’s budget.


“This would help keep those dollars in Illinois, in Rockford,” said Rep. Chuck Jefferson, D-Rockford. “We don’t have a lot of revenue enhancements on the table. We can’t turn our backs on revenue that we need so desperately.”


The legislature passed a gambling expansion bill a year ago. However, Quinn said it lacked oversight, and he also objected to provisions allowing slot machines in Chicago’s two airports, the Illinois State Fairgrounds and the state’s racetracks. The Senate never sent that bill to Quinn.


No fairgrounds slots


Lang said Quinn got his way on most of those issues in the new proposal. Senate Bill 1849 would not allow slots at the fairgrounds or the airports and would tighten oversight provisions. The bill would install slot machines at the racetracks, which Lang said are essential to passing any gambling expansion.


But Quinn said the bill does not do enough when it comes to ethical standards.


“Most importantly, it does not include a ban on campaign contributions, as lawmakers in other states have done to keep corruption out of the gambling industry,” Quinn said.


In House debate, other opponents said it is sad that expanded gambling apparently is the only way Illinois can boost its economy.


“This is not a job creator,” said Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Edwardsville. “What we’re saying … is we’re going to take money from people who can least afford it for the privilege of casinos generating revenue.”


Chris Wetterich can be reached at (217) 788-1523. Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.


Illinois State Fairgrounds impact


While Senate Bill 1849 does not authorize slot machines at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, it does require the Illinois Gaming Board to study the feasibility of electronic gaming there.


“At a minimum, this report shall analyze the projected revenues that will be generated, the potential for cannibalization of existing riverboats, casinos or other gaming facilities and the potential detriment to the surrounding area and its population,” the bill says. “The report shall include the board’s findings together with appropriate recommendations for legislative action.”


At least $10 million of the new gambling revenue would be spent on infrastructure improvements at the fairgrounds and $5 million would be devoted to promoting events held there.


Highlights of the House gambling bill 


--Creates five new casinos in Chicago, Rockford, Park City, Danville and the south suburbs of Cook County. The new casinos would be riverboats, with the exception of Chicago.


--Authorizes slot machines at the state’s horseracing tracks with approval by the Illinois Gaming Board. Profits would be split among the state, horse race purses and the tracks.


--Designates $31 million of new revenue for agricultural and conservation programs, including $12.5 million for soil and water conservation districts, $6 million for state and county fairs, $5 million for cooperative extension offices, $3 million for state parks and $3 million for historic sites.


How lawmakers voted


Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, Y


Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, Y


Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, N


Rep. Wayne Rosenthal, R-Morrisonville, N


Rep. Jil Tracy, R-Mount Sterling, Y


House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, P


House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, Y