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Emanuel, Alderman Push Quinn to Sign Casino Bill

By Chris Bentley in News on Sep 9, 2011 8:40PM

Led by Mayor Emanuel, City Council passed a resolution Thursday urging Gov. Quinn to pass a bill authorizing Chicago to run the country’s first city-owned casino.

With a $635.7 million budget shortfall to close, Chicago could use the cash. But Quinn has been vocal about his opposition to a bill he thinks doesn’t do enough to protect Illinois from the potential pitfalls of the gamng economy.

Chicago News Cooperative reported Illinois casinos sent $384 million to the state treasury, and an additional $83 million to host towns. Rivers Casino, Illinois’ tenth and newest casino, made $18 million after taxes in its first two months.

Emanuel has lined up infrastructure projects he hopes to finance with casino money. Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) touted the deal as a “no-brainer” jobs program:

“You’re going to lay off thousands of people and you’re telling us we can’t put people to work,” Mell said.

Quinn seems mostly concerned with the apparent rush to pass a bill that he has called “bloated” and “top-heavy,” without full consideration of its potential downsides. Without proper regulation, opponents point out, casino expansion may benefit casino-owners and even organized crime without investing much back into the state economy.

The budget situation legitimizes City Council’s urgency to a degree. The governor has left little doubt that he will push for more regulation to accompany the gambling expansion bill, but has not said that he will veto it outright. Quinn says he will respond promptly to legislation when it makes it to his desk.