Racetrack Slots Approved by Illinois Assembly

Vote far short of the margin needed to override an expected veto by Gov. Pat Quinn.

By Bob Kieckhefer

The Illinois General Assembly has given final approval to legislation that would allow slot machines at racetracks as part of a major gaming expansion.

However, the bill passed the Senate minutes before the end of the spring session May 31 with only a bare-majority 30 votes, far short of the margin needed to override an expected veto by Gov. Pat Quinn. The governor has repeatedly criticized the measure as opening the door to corruption because of lax oversight provisions. He also in the past has said he would not approve racetrack slots.

Sen. Terry Link, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said he will introduce legislation to address Quinn’s objections and urged him to sign the current bill while the “fix” is pending. A more likely course would be negotiations among Quinn, supporters, and legislative leaders that would result in a compromise that could be structured into an amendatory veto.

The legislature will have to reconvene this summer to complete other major unfinished business and a compromise gaming expansion could be approved then.

In addition to slots at tracks, the bill approved May 31 would add five new casinos around Illinois, including a land-based casino in downtown Chicago. It also would expand the number of gaming positions allowed at the 10 existing casinos. However, the measure is slightly scaled back from a similar bill passed last year by both houses but never sent to Quinn for fear of a veto.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a strong supporter of the measure because of the much-needed revenue a new casino would produce for the cash-strapped city.