Rahm thinks latest Chicago casino bill is a loser, City Hall adviser says

SHARE Rahm thinks latest Chicago casino bill is a loser, City Hall adviser says
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Sun-Times file photo by Jean Lachat

SPRINGFIELD — A gaming expansion bill shot down in an Illinois House committee on Monday — which would have added a Chicago casino — now has a big opponent: Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

With adjournment of the Illinois General Assembly quickly approaching, the House Executive Committee on Monday voted 5-4, one vote shy of advancing the revived measure that has been in the works since last year.

Among other things, the measure would create six new casinos, including one in Chicago; expand existing riverboats; allow for increased winnings on video gaming; and allow for additional gambling, including slot machines, at horse racing tracks. Profits from a Chicago casino would go to police and fire pensions.

State Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, isn’t giving up on the measure and may call the gaming measure for a vote before adjournment on Thursday, according to Ryan Keith, a spokesman for Rita. Keith said Rita is still speaking with colleagues about possible changes from the latest version to try to find a path forward in the next couple of days.

No one from the city has reached out to Rita to express any objections, Keith said.

But a top mayoral adviser, who asked to remain anonymous, said on Tuesday that Emanuel opposes the casino bill in its existing form and believes it’s going nowhere in the spring session.

“If there is gaming in Chicago, it would have to be under a different tax and revenue-sharing structure where more of the money comes back to local government,” the Emanuel adviser said.

“The way it’s worded now, the money goes to the state and to the casinos, leaving the local municipality to deal with all of the downside” without the resources to do it.

The Emanuel adviser also gives the gaming bill virtually no chance of passage before the close of the spring session.

“Now that the [U.S.] Supreme Court has ruled on internet gambling, we don’t see any casino bill moving until it’s a comprehensive bill” that includes internet gambling, the mayoral confidant said.

Rita on Monday said the legislation didn’t address fantasy sports betting, Internet gaming or sports betting but that he expects to address those industries, and their regulations, in the future.

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