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posted: 4/24/2012 6:34 PM

Quinn: Gambling not a priority right now

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  • Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said he doesn't want gambling proposals to become a political distraction during the final weeks of the General Assembly's session.

       Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said he doesn't want gambling proposals to become a political distraction during the final weeks of the General Assembly's session.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Gov. Quinn on gambling

 
By Kerry Lester
klester@dailyherald.com

As Gov. Pat Quinn amps up pressure on lawmakers to address pension and Medicaid reform, another issue is noticeably absent from the Chicago Democrat's agenda.

Quinn said gambling expansion, including slot machines at horse racing tracks, should not become a political distraction in the remaining six weeks of session for the General Assembly, because Medicaid and pension stabilization are "the highest priorities we can possibly focus on."

The Chicago Democrat criticized lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pushing gambling expansion as "some ... who frankly don't want to deal with the hard things. They say the solution would be expanded gambling and we don't have to make hard choices."

Lawmakers last summer passed a gambling expansion proposal that would have allowed five new casinos, as well as slot machines at racetracks and airports -- a plan, that after months of deliberation, Quinn rejected, instead releasing his own modified "framework."

That plan would not have included slots at racetracks like Arlington Park in Arlington Heights.

Quinn said he spent a "couple hours" talking with Arlington Park chairman Richard Duchossois, among owners and officials from other Illinois racetracks.

"I really feel we can come to a meeting of the minds, but if it's just smashmouth politics, we're going to fight back. And that's what it's been so far," he said Tuesday.

Quinn said he doesn't "think Arlington Heights wants a wide-open gambling setup in Illinois," and said the proposals he's seen so far were "not in the public interest."

Yet, a public relations firm representing Arlington Park Tuesday circulated the results of a poll that suggests Illinois residents support gambling expansion and slots at tracks.

The Alexandria, Va.,-based Public Opinion Strategies poll of 800 "likely Illinois voters" was commissioned, according to a news release, by the Illinois revenue and jobs alliance.

When asked if they would "support or oppose a proposal to generate revenues to state and local governments by increasing the number of slot machines allowed at riverboats, allowing slot machines at racetracks, and by adding a land-based Chicago casino and four additional riverboat casinos," 62 percent of voters responded that they supported it, compared to 33 percent who opposed it.

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