Gov. Quinn suggests curbing gambling at Ill. horse races

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn made suggestions to trim down the amount of gambling after deciding earlier this week that he will not sign the Illinois Gambling Expansion Bill with its current proposals.

Some major suggestions included forgoing slot machines at horse-racing tracks, O’Hare and Midway airports and the Illinois State Fair, according to a press release from Quinn’s office. The bill calls for five new casinos to be constructed, including one in nearby Danville, a provision Quinn did not object to. Quinn also said profitable casinos shouldn’t receive excessive tax breaks that could harm funding for the state’s education and infrastructure.

Quinn said he made these suggestions because he feels it wouldn’t be in the public’s best interest to have a large expansion of gambling offered in the state.

“As long as I’m governor, Illinois will not become the Las Vegas of the Midwest,” Quinn said.

One of the co-sponsors for the gambling expansion bill, State Sen. Terry Link, D-30, said he was pleased with Quinn’s reaction to some of the bill’s proposals.

“I’m glad that he’s in favor of the five new casinos,” Link said. “That I’m happy about.”

One qualm Link said he had with Quinn’s suggestions is not allowing slot machines at horse-racing tracks. Link said having slots at the racetracks would help them become more financially independent and therefore the government would not have to subsidize the racetracks.

“That’s the only big difference that we really have and hopefully we can work out that difference,” Link said.

State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-52, said there are a number of people who think the racetracks provide a lot of support for Illinois’ agriculture industry due to the horse breeders and those who supply the feed to the horses. He added that the people believe it will end up harming the agriculture industry downstate and there is a part of the economy in central Illinois that depends on the racetracks.

“It would be wrong to say that it would be of no effect for the area,” Frerichs said. “We are not a big horse-breeding area, but there are breeders in Champaign County who, if the race tracks died, may take their horses out of state.”

Frerichs said he doesn’t officially disagree with any of Quinn’s suggestions to the bill, but he said that it will be difficult to get majority support in the General Assembly on Quinn’s preferred version of the bill.

Currently the bill’s sponsors are working on a trailer bill that will address the governor’s concerns, Link said. He added that he hopes they’ll reach a compromise between both parties.

“It’s a complicated and contentious bill with strong passions on both sides,” Frerichs said.