Slot Machine

Slot Machine

Anne M. Eberhardt

Illinois Governor Nixes Slots at Tracks

Governor said he would accept a modified gaming expansion bill.

IIlinois Gov. Pat Quinn has turned thumbs down on slots at the state's race tracks, saying that would be too much expansion of gaming in the Land of Lincoln.

Quinn said Monday he would accept a modified gaming expansion bill that would permit new land-based casinos in the Chicago Loop and four downstate communities – but not slots at tracks.

"The current bill has major flaws in it," Quinn said. He added, the measure "is just not acceptable … The bottom line is, we must do this right."

The Illinois racing industry, including respected former GOP Gov. Jim Edgar, had strongly advocated for approval of slots at tracks, saying the added new revenue is essential for survival.

Quinn's decision tosses the gaming ball back into the laps of legislators, who approved sweeping expansion during their spring session. To meet Quinn's objections and get casinos going in Chicago and the four other sites, lawmakers would have to approve a new bill, modifying their earlier work.

However, the horse racing provisions of the earlier measure were integral to its passage without a vote to spare. Many downstate lawmakers said it is unlikely a bill without the slots-at-tracks provision could win enough support to pass both houses.

That would be a problem for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who also lobbied for approval of the broader gaming measure and outlined how he planned to spend revenue from the proposed Loop casino.

Emanuel now either will have to work with the leaders in the House and Senate to round up enough votes to win passage of the bill without help for racing or a much larger majority to override a Quinn veto of the original measure.