Madigan to hear citizens’ takes on casino additions

By Patrick Wade

When the Illinois House of Representatives reconvenes for its fall session next week, it will be faced with a capital budget bill, the likes of which has not been passed for eight years.

The bill passed through the Senate after much compromise between both parties, said state Sen. Michael Frerichs, D-Gifford, but is now facing some resistance from House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

Among other statewide projects, the bill would provide funds for local infrastructure improvements, renovations to Lincoln Hall and the construction of two new campus buildings. Madigan plans to hold hearings in Springfield and Chicago to discuss with citizens the source of money for the spending: a statewide expansion of gambling.

“The speaker wants to hear from people around the state as to whether or not they think that’s a good idea, whether that’s what they want Illinois and Chicago known as, a gambling mecca, second only to Las Vegas,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said.

Frerichs said he believes the bill has a “very slim chance” of passing in the House.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“Most people would agree that we need a capital bill,” said state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana. “I think it’s a matter of working together and putting something together that people will agree on.” Jakobsson has never voted to expand gambling, but she said she will wait until the bill comes out of committee to make a decision.

Though the spending portion of the bill passed the Senate unanimously, the bill detailing the gambling expansion passed by only one vote. If signed into law, it would authorize the licensing of one new Chicago casino and two additional riverboat casinos, the locations of which are unknown at this point.

This would mean a 30 percent increase in the number of casino licenses in Illinois and a 115 percent increase in the number of gaming positions, Madigan told the Chicago Tribune this week.

Justin DeJong, spokesman for the governor’s Office of Management and Budget, said that there are many gambling facilities just across the border in Indiana, which regularly see income from Illinois residents.

“When you see this happening, you see that this is Illinois’ loss and Indiana’s gain,” DeJong said. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

One of the new casinos could end up in Danville, and Frerichs said that his constituents are hoping that is the case. A new casino would mean new jobs for local residents, he said.

The spending portion of the bill provides for infrastructure improvements, including an I-74 interchange east of Urbana and $52.4 million in improvements to I-74 between Mahomet and Interstate 57. The bill would also support construction of a half-mile of roads in the Research Park.

DeJong said that, although a capital budget like this has not been passed in eight years, “the need is great” for infrastructure improvements across the state, and “the time is now to get these projects under way.”

University officials and Deputy Gov. Louanner Peters held a press conference Tuesday in the lobby of Lincoln Hall to raise support for the bill. Lincoln Hall stands to receive $55.1 million for renovations, funds University officials have been requesting for eight months.

The passage of the bill would also provide $42 million for the construction of an Electrical and Computer Engineering building and nearly $17 million for a Post Harvest Crop Research Lab, according to a press release from the office of the governor.

“Everybody wants to make sure that we have capital,” Jakobsson said, adding that the projects detailed in the spending bill are important to continued growth.

“These proposed capital projects are central to the University of Illinois missions of teaching and research,” University President B. Joseph White said in the release. “We owe it to the citizens of Illinois both to maintain existing campus infrastructure and to build new facilities to meet the needs of future students and researchers.”

Jakobsson said although many representatives would like the bill to be done by Oct. 12, the end of the fall veto session, the House will take the time it needs to consider the important legislation.

“This is a pretty big issue,” she said. “And I believe it needs to be done right.”