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updated: 11/16/2010 7:51 PM

Gambling opponents line up

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SPRINGFIELD -- A plan that would bring thousands of new slot machines to the suburbs at Arlington Park and in new casinos drew vocal opposition from local mayors Tuesday.

Lawmakers are debating whether to build five new casinos in Illinois and give the racetrack in Arlington Heights as many slot machines as many casinos currently have.

But Des Plaines Mayor Martin Moylan said all those new gambling options would draw money and attention from the casino that's under construction in his town.

"Where are they going to get all of these additional gamblers from?" Moylan said.

Putting slot machines at Arlington Park also drew a strong rebuke from anti-gambling advocates because they say the temptation to gamble between horse races would be significant.

"People get high on these machines," said John Boryk of Des Plaines, a coordinator for Stop Predatory Gambling.

State Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat, argued the additional gamblers are out there.

But Tuesday he postponed a Senate committee vote on the plan in order to change it slightly, find more support, and try for a vote later this week.

Link said that while slot machines at Arlington Park might be tough competition for local casinos, they're still making profits and not going out of business.

"We're all crying poor," he said. "But I don't see anyone going out of business."

"I want the state of Illinois to turn a profit," Link said.

Expanded gambling is estimated to create about $1 billion more in revenue yearly for the state, which is months behind in paying its bills.

Still, gambling expansion in Illinois has always faced long odds.

The delays in voting Tuesday means a vote from the full Senate almost certainly wouldn't come this week. Lawmakers could shoot for later this month or early January instead.

Elgin Mayor Ed Schock was in Springfield Tuesday opposing the expansion because of the effects more options might have on the casino in his city. He predicted that even if an expansion plan was approved by the Senate, it wouldn't be a done deal.

"I think the House is going to be much tougher sledding, to tell the truth," Schock said of gambling proponents.

The additional casinos, under the plan, would be in Park City, Ford Heights, Chicago, Rockford and Danville.

In addition to the new boats, O'Hare and Midway airports could have slot machines for the time period before the Chicago casino is built and operating.