Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Chicago Mayor Confident of Slots Compromise

Illinois governor faces Aug. 28 deadline on bill that would permit slots at tracks.

By Bob Kieckhefer

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he is confident a compromise can be reached on Illinois gaming expansion, including slot machines for racetracks.

Gov. Pat Quinn has until Aug. 28 to act on the legislation, which also would authorize a new casino in the Chicago Loop and four others in downstate cities. Quinn said Aug. 23 he is not satisfied that the measure establishes enough oversight to prevent corruption at the casinos.

"We're not going to have gambling without integrity," Quinn said. He reiterated his position that the Illinois Gaming Board should have ultimate regulatory authority over a Loop casino.

The governor in the past also has objected to allowing slot machines at tracks but recently has appeared willing to relent on that provision. Illinois racing interests say slot machines are a life-or-death issue.

Quinn could act in any of three ways. He could do nothing, in which case the bill would become law without his signature. His vocal opposition makes that option a non-starter.

He could veto the bill outright. But that would run the risk of an override, which would leave him with the provisions he doesn't like, albeit without the political liability of his imprimatur.

Or he could strike a deal with Emanuel, supporters of gaming expansion, and legislative leaders, and use his amendatory veto powers to insert compromise language into the bill and send it back to the legislature. A simple majority in each house could accept the changes.

Emanuel said Aug. 23 that negotiators "are closer than we've ever been. We'll work it out."

The mayor is a key player. He has significant influence with his fellow Democrats in Springfield, especially in the Senate. And since the Senate would be the biggest stumbling block to an override effort, Emanuel's active support makes the override threat more credible.

Emanuel also said he wants to use the money from a Chicago casino for "school modernization and school improvement so our kids will be in modern school buildings with a full school day and full school year."

Chicago teachers are threatening to strike over a variety of issues that could be addressed with an influx of new casino money.