A proposal by Illinois lawmakers to make the Prairie State “a hub for internet gambling around the world” by expanding the state’s gambling offerings in land-based casinos, as well as to include the Internet, has been lambasted by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn as being a distraction that he won’t allow to get in the way of more important state budgetary issues.
Quinn is focusing more on restructuring pension and Medicaid programs in the state, as well as increasing cigarette taxes–already among the highest in the country–to help balance the budget. Insiders believe Quinn may be open to some forms of gambling expansion in the state, such as slot machines at race tracks. But the current proposed bill may be too top heavy for the governor’s liking.
“I’m not going to get distracted by that subject [gambling],” Quinn told the Daily Register. “Sometimes, down here, shiny objects can distract people. We don’t want any of that this week.”
Illinois legislators Terry Link (D-Waukegan) and Lou Lang (D-Skokie) believe they have enough votes among their colleagues to pass their gambling proposal. The bill requires 60 votes for passage in the House. Should the measure receive approval from 71 lawmakers, it likely would send a signal to Quinn that his veto powers may be in jeopardy.
“We think we’re going to pass the bill,” Rep. Lang said, but declined to speculate whether 71 aye votes are likely.
The current gambling expansion proposal, Senate Bill 1849, calls for several new land-based casinos to be built, existing casinos to increase their offerings, slot machines to be installed at race tracks, and the establishment of a Division of Internet Gaming to be operated by the Illinois Lottery that would oversee online poker and gambling. The bill differs from Nevada’s online gambling legislation enacted last December, as well as the current proposals being considered in California and New Jersey, by allowing the Illinois lottery division to operate online gambling as a monopoly without competition from other entities within the state.
The current legislative session is set to adjourn at the end of May. With a governor who in the past has repeatedly looked unfavorably upon gambling expansion, it is not likely that the proposal–making Illinois a gambling “hub” throughout the country–will receive the governor’s blessing on this go round in its current form.