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Illinois Senate approves slots at tracks

May 31, 2011

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Late Tuesday afternoon the Illinois Senate approved a major gambling expansion that includes a Chicago casino, slot machines at horse racing tracks and Chicago's two airports, and four new casinos in the suburbs and downstate. The Senate voted 30-27 to support the measure, which had passed the House on Monday. The Senate needed 30 votes to pass the bill. The bill had passed through the Illinois House of Representatives on Monday afternoon by a vote of 65-50.
Balmoral Park President and Maywood Park Vice President John Johnston is optimistic that Bill 744 will be approved by Gov. Pat Quinn.
“This bill in its current form would give us the means to put Chicago racing not only on a level playing field with other states that already have slot machines at their racetracks but to move ahead of them because of the money that will be generated,” said Johnston. “I really believe that it would not take us very long to establish Balmoral and Maywood Park as the premier places to race in all of North America. With the ability to draw all the top drivers, trainers, owners and their horses to Balmoral and Maywood we can move to the top of the sport.”
According to reports in the Chicago Tribune, earlier this month Gov. Quinn, a Democrat from Chicago,  said he supported a Chicago casino but not a major expansion. "We're not going to do that. I will never support that," Quinn said two weeks ago.
If Gov. Quinn vetos the legislation, getting the votes to override the veto could be difficult. Also, consensus might be difficult to find to amend the bill.
A report in the Chicago Sun-Times stated that the vote in favor of expanded gaming in the state "represents a clear victory for new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who helped turn the legislative tide in favor of the casino expansion package through a series of personal phones calls to rank-and-file lawmakers."
The bill also allows an expanded gaming and racing operation at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, where harness racing has traditionally been held during the annual State Fair.
The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association posted the following message on its website Tuesday night: "We needed 30 votes to pass the bill. We got 30 votes. Your phone calls made a difference. For once, our efforts paid enormous dividends. We still need to work for the Governor’s signature, (more on that later) but obviously completing the first two stages of this was monumental. Everyone is encouraged to call back their Reps and Senators and say thanks for their yes vote. (If they voted yes.)  Today as a group, as an association, as an industry, we passed a major, controversial gaming bill that will save our industry in Illinois. Thank you for supporting us and thanks to all for the kind messages and texts."
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