Quinn, Rauner open to new gambling
A yearslong debate over whether Arlington International Racecourse should have slot machines and Lake County and Chicago should have casinos is likely to continue under the next governor, no matter who it is.
Both Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and his challenger, Republican Bruce Rauner, told the Daily Herald editorial board they are open to the idea of adding more gambling options in Illinois, including in the suburbs.
Both also are skeptical of gambling as a way to solve the state's financial problems, so supporters of more gambling in Illinois are likely to continue to face a rocky path in the coming years.
Quinn, who has vetoed two bills to expand gambling, said he remains "open-minded" about slot machines and new casinos if new plans have proper ethics controls and new tax money from gambling goes for school-related expenses.
"I don't want to see it sent out just willy-nilly," Quinn said.
"It could happen in the coming legislative session, but it's important to keep the principles I just outlined in mind," he said.
Rauner said he'd like to see clear support from any community where proposed gambling would be located.
"I personally am biased toward local control of that issue," he said. "If voters in a local community would like to have gaming or expanded gaming in their community, I'm willing to support that and go along with it," Rauner said.
Approving new gambling licenses would happen at the state level, but despite decades of wrangling, a big plan to add casinos and slot machines at horse tracks has stalled for years.
Quinn has vetoed two pieces of legislation that would have done just that. He argued they didn't meet ethical standards he was looking for.
Quinn's vetoes single-handedly blocked massive expansion in Illinois, much to the delight of opponents who fear the state gambling economy is already saturated and that more slot machines means more addicts. Lawmakers had been trying to get legislation onto the governor's desk for years, so Quinn's vetoes put the brakes on momentum to expand gambling.
Both plans would have allowed for 1,200 slot machines at Arlington and new casinos in Lake County, Chicago, the south suburbs, Rockford and downstate Danville.
Like many who support more casinos, Rauner noted that Chicago gamblers often head to Indiana to do their wagering, which keeps their gambling taxes out of Illinois.
About slots at Arlington, in particular, Rauner said he's open to it.
"I think that's something to be considered, yeah," Rauner said. "I'm not saying that I support it or oppose it, but I think it's certainly something to talk about that might make sense."
The complicated politics of gambling could make it tough for any governor to get exactly what he wants or talks about in the campaign.
Lawmakers have varied opinions about the benefits of more gambling options and the possible societal ills, so compromise has been tough to come by.
Since Rivers Casino opened in Des Plaines in 2011, gambling revenues in other area casinos have dropped. But Rivers' big numbers have boosted the state's overall tax take.
Rivers backers worry that gamblers flooding to a new casino in Chicago or to 1,200 slot machines at Arlington could drag its revenues down.
With video gambling machines continuing to come online in bars and restaurants, existing casinos and racetracks face even more competition for wagerers' attention even before the state would OK any new casinos. Quinn signed the legislation to authorize those machines to pay for the massive 2009 road construction plan he often touts in the campaign.