Lawmaker has new state gambling expansion idea

Mar 13, 2014

The logjam on gambling expansion in Illinois has gone on for years.  Now, a state legislator leading the negotiations says he's got a new, two-pronged approach.  

 Gambling is controversial for politicians, but it has a payoff: money.  Representative Bob Rita's plan would require Illinois' share of new casino revenue go to education and funding construction projects.

 Rita, a Democrat from Blue Island, says he's offering two ways to get to that point.Option one:

 A Chicago only-casino.

 Option two:

 A Chicago casino, plus four more -- in the suburbs, Lake County, Rockford and Danville, as well as allowing slots at horse-race tracks, except at Fairmount Park near St. Louis. 

That's similar to a previous proposal that gained traction, but for various reasons never became law -- including because of opposition from Gov. Pat Quinn.

 Rita says there are key differences now: the casinos would be smaller.  And the Chicago casino would be owned by the state, not the city.

 "So we're taking an approach of scaling this back. You know there was concerns over regulation, concerns over ethics, concerns over the size of the bill."Rita isn't taking any bets on which has the better chance of making it through the General Assembly.  He says he'll hold a hearing to find which his colleagues prefer.