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updated: 11/9/2011 5:39 AM

Gambling plan for Arlington slots, Lake casinos this week?

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  • The Illinois House took the first steps Tuesday toward a gambling bill that would include slots at the racetracks.

      The Illinois House took the first steps Tuesday toward a gambling bill that would include slots at the racetracks.
    File photo

  • Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain testifies against an expansion of gambling during a House Executive Committee hearing in Springfield.

      Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain testifies against an expansion of gambling during a House Executive Committee hearing in Springfield.
    Associated Press

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- State lawmakers began moving a new gambling proposal Tuesday that allows for slot machines at Arlington Park and more casinos in an attempt to send a bill to Gov. Pat Quinn this week.

Quinn has criticized slots at Arlington and other horse-racing tracks, but Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat and an architect of the new proposal, made no secret Tuesday that he's looking for enough support from lawmakers to defeat a possible Quinn veto.

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The legislation approved by a House panel Tuesday includes five new casinos, including one in Lake County, but would make them smaller in an attempt to overcome Quinn's opposition to a broader gambling bill approved by the legislature earlier this year. And no slot machines would be allowed at O'Hare and Midway airports.

A full House vote could come as early as Wednesday.

Lang said he thought it was important to include some of Quinn's ethics suggestions in the new proposal and make the overall package smaller.

But, he said, slot machines at racetracks are essential to win eventual approval among lawmakers.

"I think that was a glaring oversight," Lang said of Quinn. "An appalling mistake."

Elgin Mayor David Kaptain testified at the hearing against more gambling, telling lawmakers the city's revenue from its casino has dropped dramatically over the years.

The city once got $24 million a year from Grand Victoria Casino revenues, he said, but is expecting $13 million this year in the face of new competition from the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.

"The march goes on and on," Kaptain said.

On the other side, Arlington Park Chairman Richard Duchossois was in Springfield continuing to push for slots at the tracks.

The House committee's 8-2 vote sends the legislation to the House floor for further debate. Lawmakers could try to get the plan moving all the way to Quinn this week, but they have only until Thursday to do so if they want to get it done this year.

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said Tuesday that the new legislation is under review.

Even if nothing happens this week, the legislation would remain viable for further votes next year.

It still faces big hurdles, though, including a recent history that suggests approving big gambling expansion plans is politically tricky.

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