Illinois’ scaled-back gambling expansion bill has one last throw of the dice left this year. The House vote failed by just two votes as representatives voted 58-53 for the bill to pass. Senate Bill 1849 was scaled back from SB744 at the behest of Governor Pat Quinn. It now has a final chance on November 21 when the veto session goes…to overtime! Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauser explained no vote was officially recorded and it was placed under “postponed consideration” for further discussion.
Quinn led an anxious lobbying effort to prevent the bill going through even though it had been tailored to please him. He was facing off against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel embarking on the same fevered efforts to get the bill past the magic 60 and in a position where expansion would happen.
SB1849 would see 7,000 fewer gambling positions than SB744. It still increased the state’s number from 12,000 to 32,000 while cutting the initial yield by some $500m. In terms of making Quinn a more receptive opponent it eliminated slot expansion at horse tracks, O’Hare and Midway airports and at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. It also gives the Illinois Gaming Board superior power over the Chicago casino authority and basically ticks almost all boxes Quinn wants. Allowing racinos is one bone of contention that remains and while it’s there Quinn will remain an opposed.
The $1bn in fees was lower than the original bill but the annual yield would be worth anything up to $1billion and the job market would receive a significant boost. The original bill received 65 votes in May and many believed it would be a mere formality after the changes that were made. It’s a mark in the win column for Quinn and his camp yet the bill could become veto-proof in weeks and if not now next Spring will see gambling expansion approved in the state.