06/01/2012 1:55PM

Slots bill passes Illinois legislature, on to governor

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A major gaming expansion bill that would bring slot machines to Illinois racetracks passed the Illinois Senate late Thursday. The bill, SB 1849, already had passed the Illinois House of Representatives and now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who always has loomed a larger impediment to its final passage than either legislative body.

A similar bill passed the legislature one year ago only to be held by Senate president John Cullerton, who never sent the legislation on to Quinn, presumably for fear of a veto. Quinn no longer publicly fulminates against slot machines at racetracks, but he and his representatives still have expressed reservations about governmental oversight provisions in SB 1849. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Terry Link, introduced another bill, SB 3925, intended to address Quinn’s concerns.

Immediate action on SB 1849 is not expected, though the regular spring legislative session ended Thursday night. Quinn has 60 days to sign or veto SB 1849, or he could issue an amendatory veto reflecting a compromise between the governor and legislators. If Quinn takes no action in 60 days, the bill becomes law. Legislators are expected to reconvene this summer to complete business unfinished in the spring session.

SB 1849 passed the House two votes short of a veto-proof majority, but the 30 yes votes it gathered Thursday in the Senate fell well below the number required to override a gubernatorial veto. Link, however, claims he’d have sufficient votes if the bill returns during November’s fall veto session.

Even if SB 1849 passes, it would take more than a year before slot parlors were running at Illinois tracks. The bill also would permit five new casinos, bringing to 15 the number operating in the state.