05/31/2011 8:56PM

Illinois tracks one signature away from getting slots

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A day after the Illinois House of Representatives gave its assent, the Illinois Senate passed gaming-expansion legislation early Tuesday evening, sending the bill on to Gov. Pat Quinn. The bill would bring slot machines to Illinois’s struggling racetracks, and after years of attempting to convince state government to legalize racinos, the racing industry has gotten closer than ever before to its goal. Quinn has 60 days to sign or veto the bill.

Besides slots at tracks, the legislation, Senate Bill 744, allows for five more casinos in the state and slot machines behind security access points at Chicago’s two airports. Nine casinos are up and running, with a 10th, just northwest of Chicago proper and not far from Arlington, scheduled to open later this year. The 10 existing casinos can expand their operations under SB 744. Among the five new casinos will be one in downtown Chicago, and lobbying from new mayor Rahm Emanuel reportedly was instrumental in swaying the legislature. The House voted 65-50 to pass the bill Monday. The vote in the Senate was closer, 30-27.

Gov. Quinn made several statements in the last week that suggested he was cool to gaming expansion of the magnitude proposed in the bill, but he never said he would veto the bill, and the tone of the response from the governor’s office seemed more favorable following the Senate’s vote. A spokesperson said Quinn was “planning to take a really close look” at the bill. Initial licensing fees paid by gaming operations would bring billions of dollars to the state, which is grappling with an $11 billion deficit.