SPRINGFIELD — Yet another gambling expansion plan is moving through the Illinois General Assembly.

In action Wednesday, members of the Senate voted 32-20 to endorse legislation that would add five new casinos and allow slot machines at horse tracks, including Quad-City Downs.

The measure is tailored to address concerns raised repeatedly by gaming regulators and Gov. Pat Quinn. Gone from the newest version, for example, is language that would legalize gambling on the Internet. Added to the proposal are safeguards designed to ward off corruption in the gaming industry.

The plan calls for new casinos in Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Lake County and southern Cook County. In addition to allowing slots at tracks such as Fairmount Park in Collinsville and Quad-City Downs in East Moline, it would allow slot machines at Midway and O'Hare international airports.

State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, questioned why other Illinois airports weren't included in the legislation.

"I think that's problematic. Look, either we're pregnant or we're not," said Jacobs, who nonetheless supported the proposal.

The additional gambling opportunities are expected to translate into $400 million to $1 billion in additional revenue for the state.

In order to cobble together enough votes, the proposal would sprinkle funding around the state. For example, $5 million in revenues would go to the Illinois State Fairgrounds for building projects each year. Another $6.25 million would go to downstate soil and water conservation districts. County fairs would receive a $3 million slice of the revenue.

Additional revenue would go to pay down old bills and fund public schools.

Quinn and the Legislature have been jousting over gambling expansion since he took office in 2009. He said previous proposals have been too lax on potential corruption.

In response, the new legislation bars casino owners from donating to campaigns. It also creates an inspector general for gambling.

The legislation is Senate Bill 1739.


I'm the city editor at the Quad-City Times. You can reach me at dbowerman@qctimes.com or 563-383-2450.