(Springfield, IL) — December 1, 2010. Reworked legislation to construct five new Illinois casinos, to boost the number of slot machines at existing Illinois river boats, and to add slots at Illinois racetracks yesterday advanced out of a key Illinois State Senate committee into an uncertain future before the full Senate and into even murkier waters in the Illinois House–if it gets that far.
In an amendment sponsored by the Senate’s gaming point person, State Senator Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills), revisions were made to Senate Bill 737 to address concerns of both lawmakers in the Senate and House.
Appearing before the Senate Executive Committee, Link identified a number of new provisions to the bill–a bill which could generate nearly $1 billion annually for Illinois’ nearly bankrupt treasury–to win over wavering lawmakers, including minority legislators. Some of the legislative sweeteners include:
- Economic development money for depressed communities
- Minority and female hiring goals
- Minority and female contract goals of 20% and 5% respectively
- No designated south suburban location for one of the four proposed casinos outside of the City of Chicago, scrapping suburban Ford Heights’ earlier legislative claim on a casino
- Financial hold-harmless for existing Illinois river boat casinos
- No slots at Chicago O’Hare and Midway airports
The senate panel approved the amendment 7-5, but the bill’s backers are still a few votes short of the 30 they need to push the plan out of the Senate and over to the House.
In the lower chamber, the measure’s fate is decidedly unclear. Even though measure has been reworked to attempt to address the key concerns of Link’s House counterpart, Deputy Majority Lou Lang (D-Skokie), the veteran lawmaker is withholding judgment until he fully reviews the final package that may emerge from the Senate.
In addition to potential problematic policy provisions, the bill must sail past the political problems of some key House Democrats, problems that may be unamenable to legislative fixes, such as the fact that some beneficiaries of gaming expansion heavily bankrolled GOP efforts to dislodge the House’s Democratic majority.
These influential Democrats have little appetite to reward those who tried to bounce them from office. Bill backers ignore this point at their peril.