The state’s top-grossing casino won’t face competition from new gaming venues — at least for now. Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed the gaming expansion bill that included five new casinos, including one in Chicago, and slot machines at six racetracks including Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, at Longfellow Elementary School, 715 S. Highland Ave. in Oak Park, on Tuesday.
Rivers Casino, 3000 S. River Road in Des Plaines, has generated more revenue than any other Illinois casino every full month since opening in July 2011. In a statement, Gov. Quinn cited his concerns with the bill: substandard ethics, a lack of adequate oversight of the proposed Chicago casino and insufficient funding for education.
The legislation does not prevent gaming licensees and casino managers from making campaign contributions, Gov. Quinn stated. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Iowa, Michigan and Indiana have bans on campaign contributions, Gov. Quinn stated.
“The people of Illinois deserve no less,” Gov. Quinn stated.
“The most glaring deficiency of Senate Bill 1849 is the absence of strict ethical standards and comprehensive regulatory oversight,” Gov. Quinn stated. “Illinois should never settle for a gaming bill that includes loopholes for mobsters.”
Des Plaines Mayor Martin Moylan has previously said his most-pressing concern about the bill was the addition of slot machines at the racetracks, which would create new competition for Rivers Casino. A spokeswoman from the governor’s office said the overall gaming venue expansion was a concern of the governor, something the latest expansion bill addressed, but preventing slot machines from being added to racetracks was not a top priority.
Moylan issued a statement commending the governor’s veto.
“With Des Plaines being home to Rivers Casino, I, along with many others, have been totally committed to preserving the local and regional jobs created by the casino’s development,” Moylan stated. “Rivers’ construction alone created 1,000 jobs and currently the facility employs approximately 1,413 individuals.”
The state passed legislation that provided for 10 casino licenses for riverboats in 1990; Des Plaines was awarded the final license, and approved a revenue-sharing agreement that required the city to pay $10 million in gaming tax revenue to the state every year for 30 years, and portions of the remaining gaming tax revenue to 10 other communities. Des Plaines successfully lobbied to have language added to the expansion bill that would have reduced the city’s obligation to share revenue with the state.
Proponents of the expansion plan vowed to override the veto, possibly as soon as legislators reconvene in Springfield this fall.
State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), one of the bill's chief sponsors, said proponents of gaming will attempt to override the governor's veto later this year, the Sun-Times reported.
“The governor’s action today is disappointing but predictable,” Lang told the Sun-Times.
Quinn, flanked by reporters in the school's playground, said his main concerns were about integrity and ethics in regulatory oversight process.
Shortly before the playground press conference, Quinn spoke with the Oak Park fourth-graders in a muggy classroom, quizzing the students on the origins of Roosevelt Road, extolling the virtues of staying active and quoting a verse from school namesake Henry Wadsworth Longfellow which reads, "It takes less time to do a thing right, than it does to explain why you did it wrong."
It was a message he invoked again while explaining his stance on the gambling bill.
"If we do things wrong," Gov. Quinn said, "we'll have a lot of explaining to do down the road."