05/19/2017 11:19AM

Legislation to expand gambling in Illinois advances

Email

Legislation that would expand gambling in Illinois and includes a provision for racetracks to operate slot machines passed the Illinois Senate on Thursday.

Senate Bill 7 was passed on a 33-24 vote, marking the second time this spring that senators have approved gambling-expansion legislation. The earlier bill was tied directly to several other important pieces of legislation in what was being called a “grand bargain” designed to produce a long-awaited budget from a gridlocked state government, but SB7 has no such explicit links.

The bill, which also would permit a casino to be opened in Chicago, now moves to the House of Representatives, which referred it to its executive committee on Thursday. Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday made public comments expressing support for gambling expansion, but the legislation still is expected to face an uphill climb in the House.

The Senate also approved legislation enabling the Illinois Racing Board to direct $500,000 from its budget to purses at the state’s racetracks. This legislation, too, still must clear the House. The IRB has extra funds mainly because its administrative responsibilities were greatly lessened when the state’s major harness tracks, Balmoral Park and Maywood Park, closed last year.