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Illinois House Approves Gambling Expansion

Published: May 30, 2011 8:34 pm ET

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The Illinois House of Representatives passed legislation Monday that would greatly expand gambling in the state while bringing slot machines to Illinois racetracks.

Senate Bill 744 passed out of the House by a 65-50 margin, a margin which was not as close as some had predicted it would be. The bill, which still has two hurdles to clear before becoming a law, will now move to the Senate for what is called a concurrence vote, which is expected to take place sometime on Tuesday. If it passes there, it still must be signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn. The spring legislative session ends at midnight Tuesday.

Besides permitting slot machines at existing racetracks, the bill would bring five new casinos to the state—including a major gambling venue in downtown Chicago which Mayor Rahm Emanuel has identified as a priority. Midway & O’Hare airports in Chicago would also have slot machines inside security gates and existing casinos would be permitted to expand as well.

While hopeful that Senate Bill 744 will be passed by the Senate at some point on Tuesday and then by Gov. Quinn, Balmoral Park track President and Maywood Park Vice President John Johnston expressed his optimism after receiving Monday’s good news.

“Though we are not taking passage in the Senate on Tuesday as a certainty by any means, we do believe that if the bill passes in both stages Illinois will very quickly return to its position as one of the leaders in harness racing in North America,” said Johnston.

Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association President David McCaffrey concurs with Johnston.

“After what we all went through in January we’re certainly not going to take anything for granted,” he said. “This bill in its present form and today’s vote certainly puts us back in the ballgame though and could provide for one of the largest percentages of purse increases of any Racino bill in the country.”

(Balmoral Park)

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