05/25/2011 3:26PM

Illinois gaming expansion bill introduced

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Proposed legislation that would expand gambling in Illinois and bring slot machines to racetracks was added as an amendment to an existing bill by Illinois state representative Lou Lang on Tuesday. Lang’s amendment to Senate Bill 744 calls for five new casinos, expansion in the number of gaming positions permitted at existing casinos, slot machines at Midway and O’Hare airports in Chicago, and slots at racetracks throughout the state, including shuttered Quad City Downs in western Illinois and at the state fairgrounds in Springfield.

Existent casinos oppose gaming expansion, but the legislature is fairly evenly divided on the prospect. Initial revenues from licensing and long-term gaming taxes would be a boon to the state budget, which is operating deficit of about $11 billion. Gaming expansion came close to passing in a legislative session early this year, but, to the consternation of the racing industry, Lang, the bill’s sponsor, failed to bring his bill for a vote on the session’s final day.

The current legislative session is scheduled to adjourn May 31. To become law, the bill must pass the House, return to the Senate for approval there, and then be signed by Gov. Pat Quinn. While gaming expansion has strong supporters in both houses of the legislature, Quinn has appeared cool to the idea of gaming expansion on a scale as great as that proposed by Lang.

– Marcus Hersh