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Article updated: 5/27/2013 7:46 PM

Casino taxes could change to push gambling compromise

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SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois House shepherd of a massive gambling expansion package said he's negotiating with lawmakers over possibly changing casinos' tax rates in order to get a deal done.

Illinois casinos are taxed at different rates depending on their revenues, and the Chicago area is home to the biggest ones. The Rivers Casino in Des Plaines brought in nearly twice as much money in 2012 as the next biggest, the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin.

State Rep. Bob Rita, a Blue Island Democrat, said tax rates could go lower for some casinos, maybe in response to the competitive pressures that would come from slot machines at racetracks like Arlington International and new casinos in Chicago, Lake County and elsewhere.

"It's something to make to try to make it a ... level playing field," Rita said.

Details are scant. Rita plans to rewrite a gambling proposal approved by the Illinois Senate and state Sen. Terry Link of Waukegan earlier this year.

Rita said the major components, like the Lake County and Chicago casinos, as well as slots at Arlington, would remain. But a plan to put slot machines at the two Chicago airports might not survive.

Lawmakers' annual session is supposed to end Friday, making a gambling deal increasingly difficult to pull off with each passing day.

Plus, Gov. Pat Quinn has said he wants lawmakers to bust gridlock over the state's escalating retirement costs before spending time on expanding gambling. He has vetoed the last two proposals that reached his desk.

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