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updated: 8/18/2011 11:59 AM

Governor repeats concerns about slots at Arlington

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  • Sporting bright orange T-shirts, supporters of gambling expansion, many especially interested in slots at race tracks like Arlington Park, gather to lobby Gov. Pat Quinn to sign the Illinois gambling expansion law.

       Sporting bright orange T-shirts, supporters of gambling expansion, many especially interested in slots at race tracks like Arlington Park, gather to lobby Gov. Pat Quinn to sign the Illinois gambling expansion law.
    Mike Riopell | Staff Photographer

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- It appears that changes are likely coming to the gambling plan that would put 1,200 slot machines at Arlington Park and a casino in Lake County, but who would get left out of an eventual updated proposal remains unclear.

Gov. Pat Quinn Wednesday continued expressing his general distaste for the idea of new casinos and slot machines at horse tracks.

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He talked to reporters before Democrats' annual rallying day at the Illinois State Fair, focusing on the potential difficulties of regulating new Illinois gambling businesses.

"We're not going to have any kind expansion in gambling in Illinois, particularly in Chicago, without very strong, tight ethical standards," Quinn said.

"Integrity comes first," he added.

At the fair, the two lawmakers who carried the proposal in Springfield shared the rally stage with Quinn and appeared willing to make changes to the plan to tighten regulations.

"We want to address the concerns of the governor," said Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat who shepherded the plan through the Senate.

"We don't feel it's a million miles apart," he said.

Rep. Lou Lang, the Skokie Democrat who carried the plan in the House, agreed with that sentiment.

"Certainly we'd consider making changes that give the governor a higher level of comfort," Lang said.

The potential impact of slot machines at race tracks was front-and-center at the fair, where people were gambling on horse races nearby on the same fairgrounds where the Democrats rallied.

A gaggle of expansion supporters flooded the rally, wearing bright orange T-shirts asking Quinn to sign the legislation.

Gerard Fabrizius, chairman of the Kane-DuPage Soil and Water Conservation District, was among them, though he didn't have an orange shirt because organizers ran out.

The gambling package includes the promise of new money for districts like his, which is why he traveled to Springfield to show his support.

"He needs to sign it because we're floundering locally," Fabrizius said.

Quinn remains noncommittal about what he plans to do with the legislation, or even parts of it. He sounded a discouraging note about slot machines at horse tracks in particular, as at the fairgrounds in Springfield -- where MC Hammer, Lady Antebellum and other acts were slated to play later this week and which would get machines in the current proposal.

"Who needs slot machines when you have MC Hammer and Lady A?" Quinn said.

But Senate President John Cullerton, who is helping lead talks about changes to the proposal, implied he'd like to see slot machines as part of the final deal.

"I think that's kind of an important part," Cullerton said.

In the meantime, high-profile gambling opponents are set to meet with Quinn Thursday to talk about expansion.

"We will discuss with the governor our opposition about tripling the amount of casino gambling in Illinois, including social and economic concerns and academic research about the impact and harm of more gambling," said Anita Bedell, director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems.

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