CHICAGO

Illinois Gaming Regulator Lashes Out, Again, At State's Massive Casino Expansion Bill

07/14/2011 10:16 pm ET | Updated Sep 13, 2011

While Illinois Governor Pat Quinn continues to remain quiet about whether he will sign or veto the massive gaming expansion bill narrowly approved by the state legislature in May, Illinois Gaming Board chairman Aaron Jaffe has again lashed out against the measure in comments made to the Chicago Tribune after the regulator met with Quinn earlier this month.

"I’ve said before and I will tell you again, it’s 409 pages of garbage," Jaffe told the Tribune of Senate Bill 744, adding that he would be "flabbergasted" if the state's Democratic governor signed it into law.

"[U]se your imagination, and whatever evil thoughts come into your minds, it will probably be worse than that," Jaffe said of what he described as the many regulatory loopholes and challenges presented to his board should the bill be signed into law.

The Associated Press recently described the casino expansion bill, which was put on hold by Senate President John Cullerton (D) in a parliamentary maneuver intended to allow Quinn more time to come around to signing it, as a "house of cards." It umbrellas so many different provisions involving so many different stakeholders that, should one piece be removed, support may dissipate.

Included in the package are, respectively: Five new gambling facilities (located in downtown Chicago, Chicago's south suburbs, Danville, Park City and Rockford); 4,000 new "gaming positions" in Chicago, including many at the city's two airports, O'Hare and Midway; the addition of slot machines at all of the state's seven racetrack facilities, including machines added to Springfield's state fair. All told, the measure increases the total number of gaming positions throughout the state from 12,000 to 38,000.

"If [Quinn] starts tinkering right now, the whole thing could collapse," state Sen. Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign) told AP. Frerichs indicated that should his district's casino be removed from the bill, he would "most certainly not" support it any longer.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been a big supporter of the bill, saying the addition of a downtown casino would provide both jobs and revenue to "keep us economically competitive," WBEZ reported last month. On Thursday, Emanuel predicted that Quinn would sign the bill.

“I believe that when the governor weighs it, and weighs all the equities and analyzes it, he’ll come to the conclusion I think I came to on behalf of the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

But others are not so enthused. On Wednesday evening, the Elgin City Council unanimously approved a resolution urging Quinn to veto the bill, the Sun-Times reported. Elgin is home to the Queen Victoria riverboat casino, where revenues have been on a steady decline recently. The council fears having more casinos nearby will hasten that decline.

A survey released last month by the Chicago Crime Commission reported that 54 percent of respondents they polled opposed casino expansion in Illinois "as an answer to the financial problems facing the state," compared to 35 percent who supported that statement. While some questioned whether the survey accurately reflected public sentiment, commission spokesman John Pastuovic stood by its findings.

"We strongly believe this legislation is bad for Illinois and we feel Illinoisans feel the same way. This survey allows us to qualify that belief," Pastuovic told HuffPost Chicago last month.

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