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updated: 3/7/2011 6:24 PM

Gambling plan includes slots, no casinos

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  • Terry Link

      Terry Link

  • Lou Lang

      Lou Lang

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- The push to allow slot machines at Arlington Park and other Illinois race tracks is on once again, but an initial plan leaves any new casinos out of the equation.

Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, has introduced the slot machines legislation. He says he's going to first work for a plan without new casinos -- a change from previous, unsuccessful bills -- in hopes he can find enough support.

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"I decided to start this way," Lang said.

How the legislation looks in the end, though, is the question on the minds of suburban residents and gambling interests.

In the last legislative session, owners of the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin and the under-construction casino in Des Plaines vehemently opposed a proposal to create new gambling options in the suburbs, including slots at Arlington Park.

The existing Illinois casino industry still plans to oppose Lang's plan, because more slots machines at race tracks mean they "would all become casinos," said Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association.

Lang will begin talks on his plan in the House. In the Senate, Sen. Terry Link of Waukegan typically sponsors gambling-expansion plans.

And the plans Link carries typically include new casinos, including one in Lake County.

"I don't think he's going to have any support from the industry," Link said of Lang's plan.

Legislation to expand gambling in Illinois often finds itself expanding as proponents try to satisfy different groups.

A lawmaker from a particular part of the state might withhold support unless his district gets a casino, for example. Or a lawmaker particularly interested in horse racing might hold out until the tracks and horsemen are satisfied.

Often, the proposals become so large that lawmakers skittish about massive gambling expansion hesitate to vote for them.

The Senate last year approved a large expansion proposal, only to see it die in the final hours of the most recent legislative session.

Thom Serafin, a spokesman for Arlington Park, said the current session -- scheduled to end May 31 -- still allows all parties plenty of time to compromise.

"It's very early in the legislative session," he said.

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