Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan and the mayors of seven other riverboat casino towns recently met with Gov. Pat Quinn to discuss the merits of the state's massive gambling expansion plan.
The expansion would add five new casinos in Lake County, Chicago, Danville, Rockford and southern Cook County to the existing 10 riverboat licenses, and allow racetracks, including Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, to install hundreds of slot machines. It also would allow existing casinos to add more gambling positions and allow slot machines at O'Hare and Midway international airports.
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During the hourlong group chitchat last Friday, the mayors -- six in person at the governor's office and two on video conference calls -- urged Quinn to reconsider the scale of the plan or at least allow for concessions for casino towns.
"It was a great exchange of ideas on how (the gambling bill) would affect us," Moylan said. "We're hoping that it doesn't (get approved), but if it does, we want to get our say into the bill. We're happy that he gave us the opportunity and he listened and that's all you can ask for."
Des Plaines, which was awarded the 10th and what was then the final casino license in late 2008, is gearing up for the July 18 opening of the Rivers Casino.
Moylan said the mayors asked Quinn to keep the oversight of any new gambling licenses under the Illinois Gaming Board's authority.
"They should have to go through the same vetting process that we did," he said.
Moreover, any new casinos should be required to give 20 percent of their gross revenues to disadvantaged communities, and Des Plaines' share also should be reduced from 40 percent to 20 percent, Moylan said.
If additional casino licenses are approved, existing casinos should be allowed to get more gambling positions, he added.
"We're at 1,200 and it should go up to 2,000 (gambling positions)," Moylan said.
The mayors agreed casino towns should be able to sell unused gambling positions to other casinos.
"Some of the new casinos could buy the positions and hold them at a higher rate," Moylan said. "You can buy more than you are allotted."
The leaders tried to negotiate with Quinn to eliminate the provision for slots at horse racetracks in exchange for casinos giving up 3 percent of gross revenues to the tracks.
"That's big bucks and they could use that to keep the tracks alive," Moylan said. "They could keep those employees working there, give the money where it counts to the horsemen and purses. We don't want to see the racetracks close, but we don't think that slot machines are an answer."
Quinn has met with all sides in the gambling expansion debate, including state regulators, "to look at every aspect of the bill from top to bottom." He hasn't shown any signs of being swayed one way or another.