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Illinois governor: No dice to large-scale casino expansion

Illinois’ governor said late Monday that he wouldn’t sign a large casino expansion bill that was sent to his desk in May, quashing expansion of that state’s gaming presence.

Gov. Pat Quinn, however, said he would support his own scaled-down proposal, which would allow five new gaming locations, as opposed to nine. Quinn did agree to allow casinos in the Chicago area but rejected the idea of slot machines at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports.

“We have no interest in becoming the Las Vegas of the Midwest,” Quinn told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Roth Capital Markets gaming analyst Todd Eilers said Quinn’s announcement could cut the potential number of new slot machines for Illinois by more than half from the estimated 26,000 games the legislation would have allowed.

Quinn said he wouldn’t support slot machines at the state’s racetracks, nor would he support allowing Illinois’ riverboat gaming market to expand their slot machine offerings.

“I’m the final word,” Quinn said. “We’re not going to have a willy-nilly gambling bill in Illinois that is not protecting integrity, that is way too big and excessive and doesn’t provide adequate revenue for education.”

Eilers said elimination of slot machines at racetracks “effectively kills this bill.”

In his statement, Quinn said he would support new casinos in Chicago, Rockford and Danville. The governor said the Illinois Gaming Board would be required to select a location in Lake County and southern Cook County.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel supported the bill, including a casino for the Chicago area.

“The Illinois Legislature meets next week during its veto-session where key supporters can try to salvage the (gaming) expansion proposal,” Eilers said told investors, adding the original bill “narrowly passed.”

Union Gaming Group Principal Bill Lerner said that for now, Quinn’s rejection is a positive for companies operating riverboat casinos, such as Penn National Gaming, Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Boyd Gaming Corp., which would have seen increased competition.

Lerner also said casinos operating across the state line in Indiana, which include Boyd and Ameristar Casinos, attract customers from Chicago and also stand to benefit from the lack of new competition.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.
Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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