Chicago Sun-Times
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EXCLUSIVE: Robert Rita says Gaming Bill dead for this session

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With reporting from Zach Buchheit

SPRINGFIELD -- State Rep. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) told the Chicago Sun-Times that he does not plan to call a massive gaming bill that would bring a Chicago casino and four other casinos in Illinois.

Taking gambling off the table leaves little hope that Gov. Quinn will have any leverage left to motivate lawmakers to come up with a last-minute compromise on pensions.

Rita said it was a fairness issue in the legislation and wanted more time to study it and talk to all the stakeholders.

Rita said he plans to call public hearings on the matter in upcoming months.

"We need to come up with a fair bill," Rita told the Sun-Times. "So I'm not going to call the bill this session and use this as a building block to work with all the parties."

Gov. Pat Quinn had said this session he would not consider gaming expansion unless lawmakers gave him pension reform. Taking gaming off the table almost certainly means there's little hope for pension reform.


But once Rita had declared the legislation dead, the Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan), told reporters that he never heard Quinn actually say pension reform must precede a gaming bill.

Regardless of Quinn's intentions, Link indicated the bill's coffin may have been nailed shut when its former chief House sponsor, Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), dropped his name from the measure due to a potential conflict of interest.

"Getting educated was [Rita's] biggest problem," Link told reporters. He said Rita's changes to the bill were "ridiculous" and included "a bunch of other things that were not necessarily agreed on."

The bill's biggest problem? Greed, Link said. "Everybody sees this golden pot of money, and they all want part of it," he said.

"If I was to put in everything that everybody asked for, we would be in negative funds after passing the bill...So, you just have to tell people, respectfully, 'no, we cant do that.'"

Specifically, Link cited Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to allow Cook County to receive a portion of revenues from a Chicago casino.

The proposed gaming expansion would have brought a casino in Chicago, as well as four others in the suburbs, as well as slot machines in race tracks and two Chicago airports.

Notwithstanding the bill's 'dead-on-arrival' scenario that played out in the House, Link was hopeful to get a plan rolled out as early as the fall session.

"We could be working on this over the summer," he said. "We could get it ready and fly it out of here at veto session."

"I still feel very positive that something will get done. I still got hair left."

Rita issued a statement expressing his optimism. Chicagoans rooting for a casino will have to wait to see how legitimate his confidence may be.

"Let me be clear: I am very committed to bringing the stakeholders together and producing a responsible gambling bill that legislators can vote for and the governor can sign in 2013," the statement said. "It may take longer than we originally hoped. But it will be worth it if we can have a greater dialogue about these outstanding issues, hear all the ideas and make sure we're striking the right balance to produce an economic boost throughout the state."

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Dame Fortune is a fickle gipsy,
And always blind, and often tipsy;
Sometimes, for years and years together,
She'll bless you with the sunniest weather,
Bestowing honour, pudding, pence,
You can't imagine why or whence;--
Then in a moment--Presto, Pass!--
Your joys are withered like the grass.
W.M. Praed, "The Legend of the Haunted Tree"

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