A bill that would allow five new casinos, including one in Chicago, plus betting games at horse-racing tracks, Midway and O’Hare airports was approved by the Illinois State Senate Wednesday.
This comes after two previous gaming bills were vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn.
State Sen. Terry Link, who sponsored the bill, says dozens of changes — 28 of them, suggested by the gaming board — were made.
“I think we came a lot closer to exactly what the governor wanted. We made this bill as safe and sound as humanly possible, and the gaming board had their input on all of this,” Link said.
For example, the controversial proposal to allow internet gambling was taken out, and there are new provisions that ban campaign contributions from casino owners.
Still, for some, it’s just not enough.
“I just think it’s ethically challenged to have gaming to try to offset budgetary deficits,” said State Sen. Jacqueline Collins.
Collins is also concerned about making casinos more accessible to gambling addicts.
Link says it all boils down to personal responsibility.
“These are people over 21-years-old that will be making that decision if they want to gamble or not. So if they want to make that decision to gamble, that’s their decision to do,” he said.
Revenue from the casinos will first be used to pay off some of the city’s debt. That’s expected to take about three years. After that, all profit will be funneled into an education fund.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a YouTube video Wednesday showing state-of-the-art facilities, including computer labs and libraries, that he’d like to see built in Chicago using money gained from gaming.
“I’m driven by the face that a Chicago casino is the only casino in this state that will be totally dedicated for our children. All the proceeds to the city will go to building 21st century schools,” he said.
After the Senate passed the gambling bill, Emanuel released this statement:
“I applaud the Illinois Senate for taking action on the gaming bill by passing the bipartisan bill today. Specifically I want to thank Senator Terry Link and Senate President John Cullerton for working to strengthen the bill. This important legislation will provide needed resources to Chicago Public Schools to improve the lives of thousands of Chicago students. I urge the House to take swift action on the gaming bill.”