SPRINGFIELD — The clock is ticking on gambling expansion.
Before the summer is over, Gov. Pat Quinn almost certainly will act on controversial gambling legislation that — if approved — would set up 1,200 slot machines at Arlington Park and five new Illinois casinos, including in Lake County, Chicago and the South suburbs.
What Quinn will do is the big question for both people who want to see those new gambling havens and people who despise the idea.
And the governor has until late August — 60 days starting from June 29, when lawmakers sent him the plan's paperwork.
Quinn has a handful of options to chew over and both he and his staff are coy about what he'll eventually decide. Here's what his options are:
Of course, Quinn could sign the legislation into law, opening the door for the gambling expansion approved by lawmakers in May.
His public comments make that seem unlikely, though.
“This new bill falls well short of the ethics standards I proposed in my framework last October,” Quinn said in a statement after House lawmakers approved the legislation. “Most importantly, it does not include a ban on campaign contributions as lawmakers in other states have done to keep corruption out of the gambling industry.”
Public comments throughout the summer have echoed that sentiment, so ...
Quinn could veto the legislation entirely, showing clear displeasure with the proposal.
If that happens, the idea of expanding Illinois gambling could be dead for another year.
Lawmakers could try to override him, needing 60 percent of votes in both the House and Senate to make the expansion law over Quinn's objections. That many votes could be a tough threshold for supporters to meet.
Earlier in the year, it looked like gambling supporters in the General Assembly and Quinn might try to work out a deal before lawmakers voted.
That never happened.
Arlington Park spokesman Thom Serafin said the track and others in a coalition supporting expansion continue to talk to lawmakers and Quinn's staff, trying to find some common ground.
“As long as people are talking to each other there's a possibility of progress,” he said.
Quinn has options if they find that compromise.
Quinn has the power to rewrite the legislation, adding and subtracting parts, then send it back to lawmakers.
In theory, Quinn could add the ethics provisions he's called for. And in the past, he's criticized the provision to put slot machines at racetracks, so he could take that out if he wants.
What's clear, though, is that no one seems to know what Quinn will do. Spokeswoman Brooke Anderson says only that the plan is “under review.”
And state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat and champion of gambling expansion, said he's stopped trying to lobby Quinn on the issue.
“I've made my appeal to him numerous amounts of times,” he said.
Instead, Link said, he's waiting to see what Quinn does before plotting his next move.
“I'll have to look very carefully at what he does,” Link said.
If Quinn rewrites the plan, lawmakers could approve his changes with simple majorities. Or they could override him with 60 percent of votes.
If Quinn does nothing with the legislation for 60 days after June 29, the proposal becomes law automatically.
But that's something that seldom happens. And both sides might be surprised if Quinn just lets the legislation become law without somehow weighing in.
Quinn's decision-making process comes as the fruits of his last big gambling expansion approval are being finalized.
Not included in the legislation are video gambling machines that have been approved for a handful of suburbs so far this year. Video gambling in bars was legalized by Quinn and lawmakers in 2009 as a way to pay for years of construction projects.
They're being OK'd by the Illinois Gaming Board now, and that process is unrelated to the plan being weighed by Quinn.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.