Whether Illinois will see five new casinos and the Illinois State Fairgrounds will have slot machines remains up in the air as lawmakers wait to hear what are Gov. Pat Quinn’s specific objections to a massive gambling expansion bill.



 

Whether Illinois will see five new casinos and the Illinois State Fairgrounds will have slot machines remains up in the air as lawmakers wait to hear what are Gov. Pat Quinn’s specific objections to a massive gambling expansion bill.

Quinn said Thursday in Chicago that it would take weeks before he makes any decisions regarding the legislation. He plans to continue meeting with supporters and opponents.   “It’s a very complicated piece of legislation, and it deserves scrutiny from top to bottom and that’s what I intend to give it,” Quinn said. “I think that’s a healthy thing for this state, to make sure the governor looks at every sentence to make sure nothing goes wrong. I want to hear from them (supporters and opponents) firsthand and to ask questions and have them give their opinions and ideas.”   In the meantime, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said he plans to continue holding the bill in the Senate via a parliamentary maneuver until the governor tells lawmakers what he objects to and they consider a follow-up bill to deal with Quinn’s concerns.   “There’s no sense in giving it to him to veto it,” Cullerton said.    Quinn said he’s puzzled by that approach.    “If you believe in a bill, and apparently there are members of the House and Senate who believe in this bill, then not sending it to the governor, I feel, is kind of curious, odd,” Quinn said.    Asked what could be changed in the bill to assuage Quinn’s concerns that it is top-heavy with new gambling, Cullerton said, “There’s no sense in speculating. It’s up to the governor.”   Lawmakers, including Cullerton and the legislation’s sponsor, state Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, recently met with Quinn about the gambling bill. Link described the session as an educational one for the governor.   Link compared Quinn’s process in examining the bill to the governor’s soul-searching over a bill he signed earlier this year abolishing the death penalty. Quinn waited for months, meeting with supporters and opponents and reading research on the topic, before he signed the bill.   Quinn asked lawmakers about the relationship between horseracing and the agricultural industry, Link said. Agricultural interests are urging that he sign the bill because the industry has tens of thousands of jobs related to horseracing. Supporters have said the purses for racing would be bolstered by the addition of slot machines at racetracks.     “He wanted to know … how many agricultural people were really involved. Some reports show it’s 30,000, some show it’s 40,000. What’s the true amount?” Link said. “How much money really was involved with agriculture? … If we took horseracing out of the state of Illinois, if it went under, how many people would be affected, how much money would be affected? Those are the types of things he wanted answers to.”   Link said he did not take those questions as an indication that Quinn plans to file an amendatory veto that removes slot machines from the bill. Quinn also wanted to know if expanded gambling would cannibalize the state lottery, Link said.   “We’re going to try to run some numbers to show that type of thing that this is not going to affect that industry,” Link said.   Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523.    Major provisions in Senate Bill 744 Five new casinos (Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Park City and one in the south Chicago suburbs). All casinos could be land-based (they are currently riverboats). Slot machines at the state’s horseracing tracks Harness racing at the Illinois State Fairgrounds for up to nine months a year and slot machines