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Illinois Gambling Expansion Battle Begins Again This Fall

The state of Illinois has been through this before. Lawmakers, for the past several years, have been proposing casino gambling expansion bills, only to see them either defeated by their colleagues or vetoed by Governor Pat Quinn.

After years of failed efforts, the bell is about to sound on another round of debates regarding the highly controversial issue. Representative Robert Rita, a staunch proponent of casino expansion, is set to bring yet another gambling bill to the floor as early as next week.

Rita has been the legislator leading the efforts to bring five new casinos to Illinois. With his latest proposal, the two Chicago airports would also receive the right to offer slot machines at their facilities. It is a similar plan as several that Rita has already proposed.

Two separate bills have passed lawmakers' approval, only to have Governor Quinn veto the pieces of legislation. The first time, Quinn did not give much reason for why he vetoed the bill, but months after the bill was vetoed, Quinn offered up some concerns in how the legislation was written.

Lawmakers revamped the bill, and sent it back to Quinn, but it again was vetoed. Quinn and other lawmakers have pointed to concerns regarding oversight of the additional gaming. Others, such as Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe, have expressed concern over how the revenue generated by the gambling would be distributed.

Despite the opposition and a long, uphill fight, Rita believes the time is right to once again propose the gaming option as a way to help solve the states economic woes.

"Let's put the attention back on what we had going," said Rita. "To ultimately pass a bill the governor will sign."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel lobbied Quinn hard on the idea that Chicago deserves a major gaming facility. Emmanuel proposed a stand-alone casino for his city, but was unable to convince the governor of such expansion. Emmanuel again appears poised to back expansion that could include slot machines at his city's two airports.

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