by Bob Kieckhefer
A bill that would dramatically expand Illinois gaming, including permitting slot machines at the state’s racetracks, has advanced to the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives with bipartisan support.
The measure now needs an affirmative vote by the full House, approval by the Senate of some House amendments—all within the next two weeks—and the signature of a skeptical Gov. Pat Quinn.
The measure was approved Jan. 5 by the House Executive Committee 8-3. The committee was a key hurdle because the panel is carefully controlled by powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan. Legislation seldom emerges from the committee without at least tacit approval by the speaker.
The vote came after sponsor Rep. Lou Lang agreed to amendments that would soften the blow for existing casinos through adjustments of their tax rates and fees, among other things. Lang also accepted changes designed to tighten regulation of other types of gaming and to redirect some of the projected new revenue from expanded gaming.
The Illinois horse racing industry has been lobbying furiously for the legislation, including mailed appeals to owners and trainers to contact lawmakers directly.