01/06/2011 5:09PM

Bill that would allow slots at Illinois racetracks advances

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A bill that would permit slot machines at racetracks in Illinois passed out of executive committee in the Illinois House of Representatives on Wednesday and could come to a vote in the full House as soon as Friday. Senate Bill 737 already has been passed by the state senate but must be returned to that body for approval of amendments, if it passes the House. Even then, the bill still would have to be signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, who has expressed skepticism about the proposed law.

The bill calls for a large expansion of gaming in the state and goes far beyond merely bringing slots to tracks. Legislators – operating in a lame-duck session before a new legislature is sworn later this month – are seeking means to close massive gaps in the state budget, and gaming expansion would soon bring millions of dollars of revenue into state coffers. Illinois casinos, however, have seen recent declines in business, and the state’s 10th casino – in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont – is expected to open sometime in 2011, further saturating the local gaming market.

Illinois tracks have lobbied in favor of slot machines for years but have annually been rebuffed by the legislature.