Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said Thursday night that he’s “disappointed” in Gov. Pat Quinn’s rejection of a plan to put slot machines at horse-race tracks in exchange for expanding casino gambling to Chicago.
The powerful North Side Democrat added that he plans to call the governor’s gambling proposal for a vote, even though it seems destined to fail if called during the legislature’s fall session.
On Monday, Quinn issued a framework for casino gambling expansion that ruled out putting slots at tracks — a concept that had been essential toward winning enough votes to approve a comprehensive proposal that would allow new casinos in Chicago, the south suburbs, Lake County, Rockford and Danville.
Quinn termed bringing casino-type gambling to horse tracks as “excessive.” Supporters of the bill argue that race tracks already are gambling facilities and that slots would just be an additional form of gaming.
Without the horse track component, gambling expansion forces say the proposal won’t get enough votes to pass — particularly among downstate lawmakers who are looking for assistance for the horse breeding and related agriculture industries.
“Well, what we’ll do is we’ll go down to Springfield and we’ll have the governor’s bill and we’ll present it and vote on it and we’ll see,” Cullerton said during an interview at the Tribune’s Chicago Live stage show at the Chicago Theater. “And if it doesn’t work, we’ll go back to the drawing board.”
Admitted Cullerton: “Right now there’s not the votes and we’re very disappointed the governor made this action.”
Such a move could be aimed at showing Quinn his proposal lacks sufficient support while Mayor Rahm Emanuel steps up pressure to work a bill closer to the original that includes slots at the tracks. Emanuel backed the measure that passed, and state Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, has said he is preparing a measure to restore casino-type gambling at the tracks.
“The mayor has been very, very consistent and forceful,” Cullerton said of Emanuel’s support for a Chicago casino. “It’s fun to work with the mayor. I’ve learned a lot of new words. He’s focused. He’s very focused. He wants this extra money for infrastructure.”
Cullerton also said he is working to try to reduce the corporate income tax burden on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board Options Exchange, which have threatened to move some operations out of the city.
Before the event, Cullerton said the CME “had a very strong argument for relief” from corporate income taxes, which are based on sales. Cullerton noted that exchange transactions are automatically taxed as Illinois-based, regardless from where in the world it may have occurred.
“What we’re trying to do and we don’t have it done yet, is really a fairness issue, even though it will result in them paying less and the state and local governments getting less,” Cullerton said. “We’re trying to figure out how many of those sales are legitimate sales in the state of Illinois. … when we do, “I’ll advance the bill. I’ll sponsor it and we’ll attempt to provide them with relief.”