Illinois Governor Vetoes Casino Expansion Bill

Pro-gambling groups in Illinois were left frustrated this week as Governor Pat Quinn vetoed a 2011 casino expansion bill, essentially sending legislators back to the drawing board.  Quinn’s veto message on Senate Bill 744 was clear and straight the point. “This is a bad bill for the people of Illinois,” he said. “I will not approve of any gaming expansion without strong ethical standards, comprehensive oversight and dedicated resources for education.”

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SB744 called for the construction of five new casinos in Chicago, Rockford, Danville and Lake County, as well as suburbs south of Chicago.  The bill also called for existing casinos to be allowed to expand, and horse tracks to offer slot machines.  It seems that the Governor was simply not ready for such a large expansion in one go. “This bill allows for an excessive expansion that is simply too much,” he said.

Some of the issues that Governor Quinn had with the proposed bill included the fact that not enough gaming proceedings would be directed to education funds and that campaign contributions could continue to be made by casino managers and holders of gaming licenses.  Most importantly, the governor felt that there were not enough ethical and regulatory safeguards in place.

Governor Quinn’s decision is not good news for gambling proponents who were hopeful that at least partial progress would be made. Chicago is keen to see a casino in its precinct and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel will continue talks with the governor to try and create a prototype for a Chicago casino that will be acceptable to Quinn.  For now, however, SB744 is dead and legislators are forced to go back to square one and consider how to to expand gambling in the state.

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