04/30/2007 11:00PM

Illinois slots bill moves on


Legislation that would bring slot machines to Illinois racetracks while significantly expanding the overall gaming landscape in Illinois passed the Illinois House of Representatives Gaming Committee last Friday, but remains far from becoming law.

The bill, House Bill 480, still has to come before the entire House for a vote, and would also need to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And the state government, in the middle of its annual spring session, does not yet seem prepared to tackle a major alteration in the law that would have such wide ramifications.

Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie, the bill's sponsor, claims the bill could bring in $3 billion to the state during its first year in effect, and $2 billion a year thereafter. Added state revenue is a major selling point for the legislation in a state in an ongoing budget crunch.

Lang's bill would create four new licenses for casinos as well as increase the number of positions casinos are allowed to operate at existing properties. It also would allow racetracks to create slot-machine casinos. The number of machines allowed at tracks would be tied into established handle figures.

Tracks and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association have expressed general support for ontrack slots, but existing casino interests have been less clearly supportive of Lang's bill, expressing concern about saturation of the market in the Chicago area.