Casino Expansion Bill for Chicago Stirs Policy Struggle

Credit: E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune

Governor Pat Quinn recently vetoed a casino expansion bill in Illinois, which was heavily supported by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Quinn’s reasoning: there is already too much corruption in Chicago politics and not enough regulation present in the casino plan.

Proponents of the bill claim the plan would have generated millions in revenue and thousands of jobs. Illinois is currently the fifth-ranked state in the country with the biggest debt, trailing California, New York, Texas, and New Jersey respectively.

“We’re not going to have loopholes for mobsters in Illinois,” Quinn told a local ABC affiliate. “It’s woefully deficient for protecting honesty and integrity in the regulation of gambling in our state.”

The plan would have permitted the construction of five additional casinos in Illinois, including one in Chicago. Slot machines would have also been allowed at racetracks and in both O’Hare and Midway airports.

“I will continue to work relentlessly with all parties to pass a bill that will allow a Chicago casino to be built and implemented responsibly,” Mayor Emanuel responded.

“Chicago-style politics” has become a popular theme for the Republican base in its attacks against President Obama. Illinois has often been painted as corrupt, dysfunctional, and mired in debt — especially compared to its neighbor Wisconsin. There, Republican Governor Scott Walker implemented his controversial union bill in a proactive attempt to lower his state’s debt.

Gov. Quinn has called for pension reform as well, but to no avail. His latest strategy seems to be holding the casino plan hostage in order to obtain true reform. The governor may be fighting an uphill battle, particularly in a blue state like Illinois, where a Chicago Teachers Union strike is already looming.

In spite of Republican efforts to magnify Illinois’s deficit quagmire, both Quinn and Emanuel spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mayor Emanuel will cut his trip short in the hope of preventing the teachers strike. Illinois Congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth also spoke and State Representative Jan Schakowsky made a brief appearance.

More state power will head south, as Representative Luis Gutierrez and long time Illinois Senator Dick Durbin are also slated to speak.