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updated: 8/28/2012 8:57 PM

Quinn's gambling bill kill bad news for horse racing

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  • The sport of horse racing will not survive in Illinois without slots, and Gov. Quinn has to know that, Barry Rozner says.

    The sport of horse racing will not survive in Illinois without slots, and Gov. Quinn has to know that, Barry Rozner says.
    daily herald file photo


When it comes to Illinois politics, you might be better served pounding your head against a cement mixer than trying to figure out how our elected officials make their decisions.

Still, we try.

But it's worth admitting that there is no way to guess anymore why Gov. Pat Quinn has handled the gambling legislation the way he's handled it the last two years.

It defies logic and forces you to make wild assumptions and ponder the absurd.

It took 20 years to get the General Assembly to pass a gambling bill last year, and Quinn said he would never sign it because the bill included slots at the racetracks, which he viewed as gambling expansion.

Perhaps he was merely trying to placate those who are against growth in gaming, but Quinn was never opposed to adding five new casinos.

I don't know about you, but that sounds like gambling expansion to me.

The state also recently brought the Illinois Lottery online so people can gamble from the comfort of their homes and in front of their computers.

Gambling expansion?

This year another bill passed and suddenly "too much" expansion wasn't the problem.

The new story from the governor was that the bill didn't meet the "strong ethical framework of oversight and integrity" he insisted was essential, adding, "That's how I feel. I think that's how the people of Illinois feel."

Well, actually, that's not true. Polls suggest overwhelming support of the bill, which is supposed to create tens of thousands of jobs, a billion dollars in new licensing revenue and hundreds of millions a year in revenue which currently goes over the borders to Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa.

You would think a state in so much financial trouble could use the cash.

And none of this even takes into consideration all the jobs that will be lost in the horse racing industry if racing crumbles, not just at the tracks but in agribusiness statewide, from the breeders to the trainers to the farmers who provide the feed, and thousands in between.

The sport of horse racing will not survive in Illinois without slots, and Quinn has to know that.

So why is he doing this?

"It's one thing if you had to make some technical changes here and there," Quinn said of the ethical standards and regulatory oversight. "This bill just falls way short of what the people of Illinois need when it comes to ethics in government."

Quinn has always been a champion of the people, from his days as a watchdog to his time in politics, but it's hard to imagine who he thinks he's protecting here, because it certainly isn't the people of the state.

It's also a little hard to understand when his problem with the bill last year is different from his problem with the bill this year.

Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) will try to override Quinn's veto in the fall session and dismissed Quinn's suggestion that the governor is now willing to talk about their differences.

"The bottom line is he doesn't want to sign a gaming bill," Lang said. "If he had language to propose, he would have proposed it."

It's hard to argue with Lang when the state needed two decades to pass a bill and Quinn had two years to sign one or make the changes he needed to get it done.

At stake is billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, not just in gaming but in all the industries connected to horse racing.

If Quinn is really willing to work on a bill that meets his approval, and finally knows what he wants, it shouldn't take more than a few weeks to bring it back to life.

For anyone who doesn't believe that's going to happen, it's hard to argue with a healthy dose of skepticism.

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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