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updated: 10/23/2013 5:32 PM

Illinois lawmakers to revive talks on new casinos

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SPRINGFIELD -- Video gambling machines at bars and restaurants are already competing with Illinois' existing casinos, which could make five more casinos and slot machines at Arlington International Racecourse an even bigger problem for them, an industry lobbyist told state lawmakers Wednesday.

Illinois Casino Gaming Association Executive Director Tom Swoik said as many as 12,000 machines could be taking bets at bars soon.

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"Gambling expansion is already occurring in this state," said Swoik, who represents Rivers Casino in Des Plaines and Hollywood Casino in Aurora, among others.

Lawmakers aren't planning any votes soon to try to expand gambling again, but a hearing on the topic Wednesday could show they might try again this spring.

"First of all, everybody's heard most of this before," horse racing lobbyist Bob Molaro said of testimony at the hearing.

Much of the immediate gambling focus for lawmakers, though, could be on an effort to extend the law allowing betting on horses online. If it isn't approved by the end of January, Arlington's racing season could be cut in nearly half.

Lawmakers often split on expansion proposals depending on where they live. Officials who represent existing casinos tend to dislike expansion plans.

Others, like state Rep. Rita Mayfield of Waukegan, said she'd like to see a proposed casino in her home of Lake County. She says a casino there could draw gamblers from Wisconsin.

"We can justify it all day, every day," she said.

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