01/12/2011 6:53AM

Illinois slots bill dies in House as legislative session ends


CHICAGO - The lame duck session of the Illinois legislature concluded Tuesday night with the House of Representatives failing to call for a vote on a bill that would have significantly expanded gaming in the state and brought slot machines to Illinois racetracks.

The bill had passed the Senate in 2010 and was approved by a House executive committee last week, but though racing supporters of the legislation held out hope to the end, Senate Bill 737 never was put forth for a vote in the full House. A new Illinois legislature was to be sworn in Wednesday, which means that any gaming legislation in 2011 will have to start once again at the beginning of the legislative process.

Illinois racetracks have for years lobbied to get permission to install slot machines, saying that they operate at a competitive disadvantage to tracks in Indiana and Iowa that boost purses through on-track gaming revenue. This most recent push for Illinois racetrack slots was thought by many to offer the strongest chance yet of becoming law, but what began last year as limited legislation seeking to legalize racinos was eventually swept up into a massive statewide gaming expansion that would have permitted five new casinos in addition to the 10 licenses already granted by the state. That prospect sent a chill through powerful existing Illinois gaming interests and may have helped derail the prospect of bringing slot machines to tracks.