Gov. Pat Quinn has decided not to roll the dice on expanding gambling in Illinios by vetoing a proposed bill on Tuesday, but the bill's sponsors believe the governor never had any intention of working toward a workable deal in the first place.
Quinn emphasized his contention that not enough revenue in the bill would be diverted to education using students at Oak Park's Longfellow Elementary as a backdrop to address reporters.
"If you're going to have any expansion of gambling, any of those new revenues have to be devoted to schools and education. Not to other things," Quinn said.
But Sen. Terry Link, who sponsored the gaming bill, called Quinn's reasons for vetoing the bill "totally disingenuous."
"We felt that we did what he wanted to do," Link said. "We were concerned about it. He never wanted to talk about it."
"I think a lot of this was a slap in the face to the General Assembly as a whole," Link said.
But State Rep. Lou Lang, the House sponsor of the bill, was more blunt, saying Quinn has not been telling the truth.
"The only conclusion you can draw is he never had any intention to sign any gaming bill, and he's been playing us all the time," Lang said.
Lang said he tried repeatedly to get Quinn to tell him what he wanted in the bill and he would have written it in.
"We met with him two days before the bill passed and said, 'Governor, what do you want?'" Lang said. "I have called the governor's office 20 times this summer trying to set up a meeting. No go."
Quinn had also expressed doubts about a version of the bill which he said did not give the Gaming Board adequate time to scrutinize applicants and approve licenses. The sponsors said they expanded the approval period to 12 months, with the option to extend the time period for another six months. And in response to the Governor’s reservations about funding for education, they insist their legislation would transfer all tax revenue from casinos and riverboats in the Education Assistance Fund.
"He’s making this up as he goes along,” Lang said.
Lang said he has the votes he needs for to override the veto in the House and is "very close" in the Senate.
Hawthorne Race Track stood to gain 1,200 slots if the bill passed. Hawthorne president Tim Carey said he remains optimistic something will get done.
"We're going to get a bill done" Carey said "There's 30,000 jobs associated with racing. You know this is an agri-business that covers the whole state."
"We're an island right now, and we can't stay alive on an island, with all the other states having gaming," Carey added.
Quinn has an ally in Des Plaines Mayor Martin J. Moylan, who welcomed Rivers Casino to that city a year ago and didn't want the extra competition. Moylan released a statement saying they lobbied against the bill in order to keep in order to keep the local and regional jobs created by that casino
The governor also objected to the ethical aspects of the bill, saying it doesn't provide enough oversight and wouldn't prohibit politicians from taking campaign cash from gaming operators.
Quinn says he's confident his veto will be sustained in the legislature.