The Illinois legislative session ended May 31 without an expanded gambling bill. SB 1739 would have authorized new casinos for Chicago, the south suburbs, Lake County, Rockford and Danville, plus allowing slots at racetracks. Proponents said the bill would have led to billion in annual gaming tax revenue that would have benefited education and created more than 100,000 jobs.
With just a few hours left in the session, State Rep. Bob Rita, sponsor of the bill, decided not to call it for a House vote. Rita said there were two main reasons for the bill’s failure: “First, we need to address the comments made in the final days of session from Governor (Pat) Quinn’s gaming board chairman, Aaron Jaffe, when he said Chicago should be considered in a separate bill. This certainly caused many to wonder what the governor’s intentions are with this proposal,” Rita said. “More importantly, we need a bill that provides fairness, and there are several issues before us now that do not provide the appropriate fairness required for a gambling bill that we must do right.”
Rita said slots at airports, revenue sharing for horse breeders and Chicago casino-related issues also needed to be addressed, as well as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s last-minute bid for the county to get a share of Chicago casino and racino revenue.
But Quinn, who has twice vetoed gambling expansion measures, said, “I will never, ever sign a gaming expansion absent comprehensive pension reform.”
Jaffe had called the measure “a Christmas tree bill,” and said the Chicago casino provision should become separate legislation. While the bill called for the other four proposed casinos to report to the Illinois Gaming Board, a new, mayor-appointed Chicago Casino Development Authority would oversee the Chicago casino. Jaffe said that would lead to corruption.