Lang Tries Again for Gambling Expansion
Skokie lawmaker gets bill through the House; Governor Still Not Happy
Once again Skokie Rep. Lou Lang believes he will get a major gambling bill passed in Springfield and once again Gov. Pat Quinn is not happy with the proposal.
The Illinois House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday that would expand gambling in the state with 69 votes, two short of veto proof majority. The bill would add five casinos including one in Chicago. It now heads to the Senate which passed a gambling expansion bill last year and Lang believes his colleagues in that chamber will once again do the same.
Lang, a Democrat, has been a staunch advocate for expanded gambling in Illinois for more than 20 years believing that could be a way to add hundreds of millions to the state’s cash strapped coffers and create thousands of jobs.
“Gaming is a legal industry today and this bill does not recreate the wheel but simply allows a viable industry to grow and prosper,” Lang said.
But later on Wednesday, Quinn issued a statement taking major issues with the House backed legislation.
Saying the bill has “major ethical shortcomings”, Quinn went on to further describe his misgivings and added, “As long as I’m governor, I will not support a gambling bill that falls well short of protecting the people of Illinois. It is clear that this gaming bill still needs significant improvement.”
So once again Lang and Quinn appear headed on a collision course which is what happened last year when a much larger gambling expansion bill passed the two chambers but never reached Quinn's desk as Senate Majority Leader John Cullerton, in a parliamentary maneuver, never formally sent the bill to Quinn.
Last October, Quinn detailed his problems with the legislation, specifically his reluctance to add slot machines at race tracks.
Lang counters there were 12 points where Quinn expressed concern and he and other expanded gambling supporters acquiesced on eight of them including not having slot machines at airports or the Springfield fair grounds and creating an inspector general for gaming.
But that does not appear to have appeased the Governor.
“This new bill falls well short of the ethics standards I proposed in my framework last October,” Quinn said in the statement. “Most importantly, it does not include a ban on campaign contributions as lawmakers in other states have done to keep corruption out of the gambling industry and out of Illinois. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and bordering states like Iowa, Michigan and Indiana have all approved such bans.
Another sticking point is the Chicago casino that Mayor Rahm Emanuel would like to see as he was quoted in the Chicago Tribune Thursday,
“I think we should work that out so we can move forward as a city, like other cities are around the country, using the revenue from a casino to create jobs,” he said.
Quinn said the bill does not provide adequate oversight of the procurement process and does not ensure clear oversight of the proposed Chicago casino."It does not provide the Illinois Gaming Board with sufficient time to make critical licensing and regulatory decisions,” Quinn.
Lang has indicated in the past that he could get a bill through, only to be stymied. He is confident he can pick up the additional two votes this time to get something through the House if Quinn vetoes the measure.
“I don’t know whether we are going to compromise but I have the votes to override a veto in the House,” he said. “If he wants to sit down and talk to me, here I am.”
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