Sponsor reviving talks on state gambling expansion

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 11:35 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 11:35 p.m. CDT

CHICAGO – The sponsor of a bill that would add five new casinos in Illinois and allow slot machines at both major Chicago airports says he plans to revive talks on the measure next week in hopes of coming up with a deal.

Rep. Robert Rita, a Democrat from Blue Island, said Wednesday that he wants to begin discussing multiple concerns that prevented a House vote on the bill during the spring legislative session. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in Springfield before the House Executive Committee.

“Let’s put the attention back on what we had going ... to ultimately pass a bill the governor will sign,” Rita said.

The measure could provide state and local governments millions in much-needed revenue. It would add casinos in Chicago, Rockford, Danville, Chicago’s south suburbs and Lake County. It also calls for numerous slot machines, including at O’Hare and Midway international airports, and would set aside revenues for economically depressed communities and other groups.

Rita opted not to call the bill on the final day of the spring session, saying it wasn’t ready and he needed time to talk with opponents about their concerns.

Among the biggest critics is Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe, who says the bill doesn’t include enough oversight of a Chicago casino to prevent corruption.

Others raised concerns about how revenue would be shared, the location of the Lake County casino and the tax structure for existing and new casinos.

A vote on the measure is unlikely during the fall veto session, though Rita said he wouldn’t entirely rule it out.

Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has vetoed two previous gambling bills, saying they didn’t provide enough ethical protections.

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