April 13, 2005

Bill outlawing riverboat gambling progresses to House vote

The measure might be the unlikeliest bill of the legislative session -- a proposal to outlaw riverboat gambling in Illinois.

After all, legalized gambling has expanded steadily in Illinois over the past three decades and the floating casinos alone generate more that $700 million in revenue for state government.

Yet there is a good chance the bill will be voted on by the state House of Representatives this week, and there is a reasonable possibility it may pass.

"I didn't take this bill too seriously when I first saw it, but it seems to be gaining traction," said Rep. Patrick Verschoore, D-Milan. "I'm very much against it, and I'm working hard to see that it is defeated."

The bill is the brainchild of Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, who believes gambling is immoral, an unsound way to fund government and detrimental to the economy.

Rep. Bradley said he believes that gambling takes money out of the state's economy and sends it to mostly out-of-state-headquartered companies.

"I guess his argument is that if people weren't out gambling, they would be spending money on things like swing sets," Rep. Verschoore said. "But people who are going to gamble are going to gamble. In the Quad-Cites, folks would go to Davenport, Iowa. In southern Illinois they'd go to Missouri, or in Chicago they would go over to Indiana. I'm against this because of all of the jobs that would be lost if it were to pass."

A spokesman for the industry said riverboats employ 8,628 people across Illinois.

Former state Sen. Denny Jacobs, who authored the original riverboat gambling legislation, said the measure is unlikely to become law. Even if it were to pass the House, it almost certainly would be killed in the Senate, he said.

Many political insiders believe the bill is a way for House Speaker Michael Madigan to send Gov. Rod Blagojevich a message.

Gov. Blagojevich opposes various proposals to put a casino in Chicago. But he reneged on a campaign pledge last month when he announced that he would favor allowing more slot machines on the state's existing casinos. The governor's plan would bump the number of slot machines and positions at gaming tables from about 11,000 to more than 23,000.

"I think the speaker is saying to the governor, 'If Chicago can't have a casino, why should we have it anywhere else?'" Mr. Jacobs said.

Steve Brown, a spokesman for Rep. Madigan, said anyone who would make such an assertion does not understand the legislative process. He added Rep. Madigan has not yet decided how he will vote on the matter.

But Rep. Lisa Dugan, D-Bradley, said she's made up her mind.

"I don't like to see the state dependent on gambling as a revenue stream," she said. "I'm all for getting rid of riverboat gambling. The feedback I've gotten from constituents is that they don't want to expand gambling."

Even if the measure passes the House and is later killed in the Senate, it may make it exceedingly difficult for Gov. Blagojevich's gambling expansion plan to be approved later this year.

"How is someone going to vote to eliminate riverboat gambling and then say to voters, 'I'm now voting to expand this thing that two months ago I thought was so bad that it needed to be eliminated?'" Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said.

Hmmm. Madigan's spokesman says Denny Jacobs, "does not understand the legislative process" ???!!! Now that takes some cojones!

And wonder of wonders, we not only see Pat Verschoore's name mentioned in the local press, but he's actually quoted.

Scott Reeder's does some great reporting on this here.


At 4/13/2005 12:08 PM, Blogger corn husker said...

jacobs has bigger cajones than most. madigan is an idiot if he don't think so or has not paid attention all the years denny's been down there in springfield.

At 4/13/2005 10:27 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Yep Husker... as I said, that takes a lot of stones to actually say that Denny Jacobs doesn't understand the legislative process! Wow. That's like saying Bill Gates doesn't understand computers.


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