Gov. Pat Quinn said today that he’s met with sponsors of a major gambling expansion he’s criticized as “top heavy,” the first of what he says will be many meetings as he weighs whether to sign off on the measure.
The gathering took place Thursday afternoon in Quinn’s Chicago office, where he heard from Senate President John Cullerton as well as the bill’s main Democratic sponsors, Sen. Terry Link of Waukegan and Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie.
Quinn said the meeting was aimed at going over the legislation with a fine-toothed comb, not discussing a possible scale-back in an effort to win his approval.
“There were lots of question and discussions, and I think that’s the only way to evaluate any law, especially a law like this one which has very widespread consequences for our state,” Quinn said. “It was more a review of what the bill entails. It’s very complicated, it’s a bill that’s bigger than the Chicago phone book in terms of pages… it has a lot of twists and turns.”
Lang said Quinn listened intently and took notes as they walked him through the proposal, but he did not indicate which parts of the bill he might have problems with.
Quinn has expressed support for a Chicago casino, but has said the overall gambling package is too large. The bill would add four more casinos in Danville, Rockford, Lake County and southern Cook County. Slots would be allowed at Midway and O'Hare airports and the state's six licensed horse tracks. A "racino" would be added at the state fairgrounds in Springfield, and existing riverboats could add more betting spots and move to land.
“It’s important not only for the governor, but for the legislators in the room to have these conversations so that the governor can see that to us, it’s not just a bill,” Lang said. “It involves things that are important to the governor. Leave out the fact that it’s about gaming, and at its core it’s a bill about job creation and economic development.”
Quinn said he also plans to meet with opponents, including Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe, who this week criticized the plan as “garbage” that would erode regulatory efforts. It was a stinging rebuke that got Quinn’s attention, but irked lawmakers who have spent years working on the proposal.
Link said Jaffe should have come to lawmakers with his concerns, saying it was “unprofessional” of him to make those comments.
Quinn's comments today came after he signed a proclamation honoring Juneteenth, the day that marks the end of slavery in the United States.