Hawthorne is one of the Illinois tracks pushing for slot machines

Hawthorne is one of the Illinois tracks pushing for slot machines

Four Footed Fotos

Slots Spread, Illinois Tracks Can Only Watch

Report says 21,500 machines now operating in about 5,100 locations in Illinois.

Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn twice vetoed legislation that would have permitted slot machines at the state's struggling racetracks on the premise that the bills didn't provide for adequate oversight of expanded gaming.

But Quinn did sign a bill authorizing slot machines at thousands of other sites around the state—bars, fraternal halls and similar businesses—where it now seems regulation is all but nonexistent.

The Arlington Heights Daily Herald reported Nov. 21 that in the three years since the slots spread across the state, only four establishments have been cited for allowing underage gambling. All of the citations were in the Chicago suburb of Mundelein.

Since Quinn signed the bill and the Illinois Gaming Board began granting licenses, more than 21,500 machines have been installed in about 5,100 locations, the newspaper reported. The legislation prohibits racetracks from sharing in the opportunity even though they already conduct wagering, are licensed, and are closely regulated.

"There is no way to police every gambling machine in the state of Illinois," Brian Fengel, police chief in Bartonville and president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, told the Daily Herald.

A bill pending in the current session of the legislature would add several casinos around the state, including downtown Chicago, and authorize gaming at tracks. The remaining Illinois tracks—Arlington International Racecourse, Hawthorne Race Course, and Fairmount Park—are banking on passage of the legislation to put an end to a downward spiral in pari-mutuel handle, purses, and the breeding industry.

The bill, however, is one of many caught up in a long-running dispute between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and leaders of the Democrat-controlled House and Senate.