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Opinion: Gambling Expansion Requires New Governor

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Gambling Expansion Requires New Governor

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“Disappointed but not surprised,” a horse racing friend of mine Tweeted this morning, after learning Gov. Pat Quinn had vetoed the gambling expansion bill. “Hope for better in November.”

Well, race fans, that will have to be November of 2014, because it’s going to take a new governor to put a casino in Chicago and slot machines in racetracks. Pat Quinn promised honesty and integrity in state government and damn him, that’s what he’s delivering.

Quinn objected to the bill because it does not include a ban on campaign contributions by casino owners. With two governors serving prison sentences, Quinn does not want to give the famously corrupt gambling industry any influence over Illinois’ famously corrupt political system.

So what are the chances the next governor will sign a gambling expansion bill? Not very good. Quinn almost certainly will be succeeded by a Republican in 2014. Campaigning in favor of a new Chicago casino would not be a winning issue with conservative primary voters. And the most likely Republican nominees have not supported casino expansion.

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is a critic of using casinos to raise revenue.

“My belief is you do not take and make major public policy decisions strictly on what the revenue that you intend to generate,” Rutherford told Illinois Statehouse News. “I don’t want Chicago to be a Las Vegas.”

State Sen. Bill Brady, 2010’s Republican nominee, and state Sen. Kirk Dillard, who finished second in the primary and is likely to run again, both voted “present” on the bill. Senate Majority Leader Christine Radogno, who is also considering a run for governor, voted “Nay.”

Even the most likely Democratic successor to Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, has declared her concern about “enormous expansion” of gambling in Illinois, and said Quinn was right to demand stronger ethics requirements in the bill the General Assembly passed in 2011.

Unless Rep. Lou Lang or Sen. Terry Link are elected governor, it doesn’t look good for gambling expansion.
 

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