05/30/2011 5:38PM

Illinois House passes slots bill

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The Illinois House of Representatives passed legislation late Monday afternoon that would greatly expand gaming in the state while bringing slot machines to Illinois racetracks.

Senate Bill 744 passed out of the House with 65 yes votes to 50 nays, a final tally not as close as some had predicted. The bill still has two more hurdles to clear before becoming law. First, it must return to the Senate for what is called a concurrence vote, which could happen sometime Tuesday. That vote is expected to be tight, and even should SB 744 pass there, it still must be signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn, who has sent negative signals about the legislation. The spring legislative session ends at midnight Tuesday.

Besides permitting racetrack slot machines, the bill would bring five new casinos to the state – including a major gambling venue in downtown Chicago - adding to the 10 casino licenses already awarded. Midway and O’Hare airports in Chicago would have slots inside security gates, and existing casinos would be permitted to expand.

Illinois government has impetus to pass the legislation because of the much needed revenue it would provide. The state faces a budget shortfall of some $11 billion.