‘Hold’ stops Illinois gaming bill and Rohm Emanuel's casino

Jun 13, 2011 8:45 PM

Illinois politicians have a problem: what to do about expanding gambling so that Chicago mayor Rohm Emanuel can get his casino.

Legislation permitting that casino was passed by both the House and the Senate but the bill includes four other casinos, as well as provisions for additional slots at the operating riverboat casinos and slots for the state’s horse tracks.

Too much, says Gov. Pat Quinn, who himself faces a dilemma since he is on record as saying he would "never support" the bill because is it too big. Yet, Quinn is also on record as favoring a Chicago casino license.

Senate President John Cullerton came to his rescue last week by placing a hold on the approved legislation, thus placing it in limbo subject to being reconsidered and/or amended at a subsequent date. It’s possible the bill will be taken up at a special session.

"(Gov. Quinn) doesn’t want to see it as big," said State Sen. Terry Link. "So his message was loud and clear to us, and we have to see how we can do this to appease what his concerns are.

"We don’t want a veto," he added.

Horsemen at the state’s seven horse tracks fear bill modification could affect them while struggling communities that see a casino license as a way of rejuvenating their business activities with jobs have a similar fear.

Cited were the cities of Danville and Rockford whose names came up often during the casino debate.

Danville thrived during the 70’s and 80’s but lost its glitter when General Motors abandoned its property in the 90’s.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said the Danville business community felt there was a chance to change Danville’s fortunes with a casino.

"They (the lawmakers) were looking for economically depressed communities with difficult unemployment numbers and rising poverty numbers," said Mayor Eisenhauer.

"Danville is the poster child for that," he said.

Rockford is a similar story, say city officials. Once thriving with manufacturers of a number of different products filling its industrial areas, the city’s manufacturing plants now provide only one-fifth the number of jobs they used to offer.

As for the racetracks, operators point out that without slot machines they will be unable to compete with out-of-state tracks for horses and with nearby casinos for customers.

When asked about modifications, Senator Link responded that "it’s too early to say what might get cut from the bill."