Quinn vetoes gambling bill, says it included 'loopholes for mobsters'
Will be updated. Reporting from WUIS' Rachel Otwell used in this story.
Updated 12:37 p.m. with reaction from Fairmount Park Race Track official
Updated 11:01 a.m. with additional comments from Illinois lawmakers and stakeholders.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has vetoed a gambling bill on the grounds that it fell "well short of the standards of the people of Illinois."
As we reported earlier this morning, this was the expected course of action from Quinn.
In his veto message, Quinn says that the bill contains "loopholes for mobsters:"
The most glaring deficiency of Senate Bill 1849 is the absence of strict ethical standards and comprehensive regulatory oversight. Illinois should never settle for a gaming bill that includes loopholes for mobsters. Notably, this legislation lacks a ban on campaign money from gaming licensees and casino managers. We must prevent campaign contributions by gaming operators from infecting our political process.
Quinn also says that the bill lacked proper oversight and procurement measures, along with support for education. Quinn says that "Any expansion of gaming must prioritize the needs of our students."
If it had become law, the bill would have established five new casinos in the state. It would have also allowed slot machines at horse racing tracks.
Reaction to the veto
At Fairmount Park Race Track in Collinsville, president and general manager Brian Zander says they’re disappointed with the decision.
“A lot of the people that work at Fairmount Park and have worked here for many years and the horsemen, and the owners and the trainers and the jockeys would have liked to have seen the slots approved just so that they would know that they could have a secure and long-term future racing at the track and working here," Zander said.
Zander says it’s hard to compete with surrounding states that allow slots at horse tracks and can give race winners bigger purses.
But he says he sees it as a positive that the governor did not target horse tracks in his veto message as he has done in the past.
Anita Bedell, executive director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems says gambling in the state have made things worse, not better.
"We have enough gambling in Illinois, and as the Governor has said, the state can not gamble its way to prosperity," Bedell said. "With all of the gambling, look at the problems that we have in Illinois...gambling has not solved any economic problems, it only has made them worse."
Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), a House sponsor of the vetoed bill, says the veto destroys employment and financial opportunities.
"[Quinn] apparently is not interested in creating or saving 90,000 jobs," Lang said. "He's apparently not interested in over a billion dollars of unpaid bills being taken care of, and he's apparently not interested in hundreds of million of dollars in new revenue every year, and additionally not too interested in keeping thousands of Illinoisans everyday who get in their cars and drive to Indiana, keeping them in the state of Illinois."
Alderman Bill Black of Danville, a former state representative, currently chairs the Illinois Revenue & Jobs Alliance, and says an override of Quinn's veto is not out of the question.
"We're fairly confident we can override the veto in the House, we are not as confident at this point that we have the votes to override the veto in the Senate," Black said.
Black also says that Quinn's concerns about a lack of oversight of the state gaming board are unfounded, saying that since the setup of the regulatory structure over the board in the early 1990s, the board hasn't "had a hint of a scandal or a major problem in all that time."
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