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Racetrack Slots Bill Loses By A Nose

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Racetrack Slots Bill Loses By A Nose

Last year, state Rep. Lou Lang came up with a racetrack slots bill that Gov. Pat Quinn didn’t support. This year, the Skokie Democrat tried to pass a bill that not even the racetracks support.

Lang’s annual attempt to expand gambling is already listing over from all the provisions he’s stuffed into it.

His bill would add casinos in Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Lake County and the south suburbs. It would add slots and table games to existing casinos, and allow racetracks -- including the state fairgrounds in Springfield -- to finally install slots. O’Hare and Midway would get slots too.

That’s a lot of gambling, which might make Illinois look like Nevada with trees, grass and water. But a provision that had nothing to do with gambling is stalling the bill, says the Tribune:

"Lang blamed the downfall on a provision requiring tracks to reach peace agreements with organized labor. Republicans on the panel all voted against it.

The labor provision was opposed by Arlington Park Racecourse, which is attempting to reach a compromise with food-service workers over representation of additional workers that would be required for turning the racetrack into a “racino.” Arlington had long sought the OK to bring slot machines to the racetrack, but said it would oppose the bill mandating such agreements."

Wrote a commenter on the Chicago horse-racing site, Barn to Wire: “It's all over folks. No matter what optimism the various horsemen associations say. They have killed Arlington Park today.”

Wrote another: “This is not dead yet ... someone needs to corral Lang. If it was up to him we'd have slots in every urinal in the state. Relegate slots to the tracks and be done with it!”

Everyone at the track -- railbirds, jockeys, grooms, mutual clerks, the guy who pushes the button to open the starting gate -- is worried that Lang won’t be able to get this done in time to save horse racing in Illinois. On Kentucky Derby Day, I ran into a guy who works at one of the local tracks.

“Last year, I was watching the live feed from Springfield, and when the bill didn’t come up, I texted ‘WTF’ to a friend of mine,” he told me. “I may have to go to work for you. I do windows.”

It was a nice offer. But if the racetracks never get slots, there won’t be enough windows in Chicago for out-of-work horse people to wash.

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