Chicago Sun-Times
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New gambling expansion plan clears Senate

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With reporting by Natasha Korecki

SPRINGFIELD-The Illinois Senate Wednesday passed a gambling expansion package to bring a casino to Chicago and appease ethics questions raised by Gov. Pat Quinn and his top gambling regulator.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan), passed the Senate 32-20, with one member voting present. It now moves to the House.

"We've put a lot of stringent requirements in this bill to make sure the honesty and safety of gaming in this state is far beyond any state in the United States. We made sure integrity is in this bill," Link said.

While signaling some encouragement for the bill, Quinn's office stopped short of an outright endorsement of the plan, saying more "improvements" are likely necessary though not specifying them. He has vetoed two earlier gambling-expansion packages dating back to 2011.

"We're reviewing the bill, it appears to be moving in the right direction," Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said.

The measure would strengthen the Illinois Gaming Board's oversight of a Chicago casino, ban campaign contributions from gambling interests and establish a new post of executive inspector general for gambling.

Link's latest version also strips out a controversial plan to allow the state lottery to offer casino-style wagering online.

Additionally, like two earlier expansion projects, Link's bill authorizes casinos in the city, the south suburbs, Lake County, Rockford and Danville. It would permit slot machines at racetracks and give Chicago the option of allotting some of the 4,000 machines for a city casino to O'Hare and Midway Airports.

Link said his plan would eventually generate $268.9 million annually for the state, including $128.7 million annually for public schools in Illinois.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel described Link's legislation as "vital" and urged state lawmakers to pass the plan.

"I have said repeatedly that if Chicago were to build a casino, all revenue would be directed toward modernizing schools in our neighborhoods and communities," Emanuel said in a statement. "I encourage all parties in Springfield to take swift action on the gaming bill and, in so doing, create the opportunity for us to rebuild and renew our public education infrastructure in the city."

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Adding casinos to the Chicago suburbs is a horrible idea. The casinos we already have are not being filled. I work at Grand Victoria and we are very slow during the weekdays and even have many empty seats on the weekends. Rivers casino depends on airport traffic and adding thousands of slots to the airport at Ohare is going to severely ding their business. I know they will still make millions of dollars, but there won't be added revenue because you are only taking the money they would gamble at other places. Now, a casino in Danville makes some sense because you'll attract Champaign and people from Indiana. Slots at midway airport is fine because there isn't another casino in the vicinity.

My point it, the market is saturated in the suburbs. What you need to do is take this limit off the number of gaming positions a casino can have and allow more types of games. I will go to Horseshoe in Indiana to gamble because they have table games that aren't available in Illinois.

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